I had a reasonable run and I guess it had to happen eventually but sadly I think 2018 marks the point that I completely lost touch with what is popular in gaming. Like that guy at a festival sat on a foldaway camping chair reading the Guardian supplement and complaining about Jason-Zed headlining, I seem to have developed a complete disconnect between what I enjoy and what is ‘now’. At around September this year I realised that my favourite games so far were a game that I’ve seen literally one other person talk about online and another that proved such an unpopular concept that it totally crashed at retail and took absolutely everyone in the development team with it. Never let it be said that I don’t have my finger on the pulse. WAZZUPPPPP?!?!? .

I guess the writing was on the wall when I didn’t think Breath of the Wild was all that; an opinion that’s about as popular as a contrarian at a conformist convention. To my credit, I did give Fortnite a go and was delighted to discover that there’s a perfectly entertaining videogame attached to what I had previously assumed was simply a digital repository of contemporary dance moves. But I was only able to enjoy it by bypassing the base building entirely; a mechanic that I decided was too complicated for me to learn after five minutes of building wooden staircases to nowhere in an attempt to find the ducking button (call of the search, I’ve found it everyone; this is the context under which predictive text actually gets that word ducking right). Realising that your panicked cycling through the menus is terrifyingly reminiscent of when your mum attempted to put the clock forward on the VCR that one time is not a pleasant juxtaposition I can tell you.

As the end of the year rolled round I was more excited by the release of Tetris Effect (the splicing of a thirty year old tidy-em-up and the kind of art you’d find at a legal highs stand) than I was about the enormously popular output of Daniel Radcliffe’s rootin’ tootin’ sweatshop. Yes, you will not find Red Dead Redemption 2 here; not least because I’ve completely lost interest with the sub-genre of games that require you to walk agonisingly slowly behind another character whilst they explain what you need to do in excruciating detail; but because I found the original so tedious I frankly couldn’t give a monkeys. Sir, I could barely muster up a marmoset.

But what you will find if you continue to scroll down this page and use your retinas to interpret the symbols on the display as concepts and ideas, is a record of a year that although couldn’t possibly hope to compare with last year’s insanely good line up, still managed to prove that videogames are really pretty alright on the whole.

I strongly suggest that you do them.


10. Spider-Man (PS4)

Way back when at the very dawn of time, myself and a couple of mates went to a place called Blockbusters (think of it as a kind of Netflix that you can be in) and rented a game called Spider-Man 2 on the PlayStation 2 (think of it as a kind of PlayStation 4 but halved). It was a bloody great way to spend a weekend; passing the pad, swinging round the city and doing the actually quite restrictive number of things that Spider-Man can do that a spider does. And it has been one of the great mysteries of the gaming industry that such a bankable concept hasn’t been bettered *dramatic pause* UNTIL NOW.

Finally, someone else has managed to capture that feeling of off-the-cuff improvisation and being ever-so-slightly clumsy and shit that makes Spider-Man such a joy to watch falling about. And let’s be completely clear here: he’s brilliant to control in this. Narrowly scraping across the street, front-flipping off windowsills and spinning endlessly through the air just like you never see spiders do, Mr Parker is so much fun to get from A to B that fairly often all the other bit, the stopping crimes and actually doing stuff, can feel a little unwelcome.

Spider-Man (or ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ as The Man is desperate for us to call it but we obviously never do) occasionally feels like the most videogamey game ever made. Think of something games generally do, and there’s a chance you’ll find it here; skill trees, collectables, infuriatingly shit stealth sections, buildings you have to climb up in order to have a look around and put stuff on your map despite the fact this is New York and I think Ol’ Pete might be a little familiar with this city.

If this sounds a little critical it’s because it is and that’s what I intended (fuck me, I’m such a fucking wordsmith), but it’s only disappointing to see such little imagination and experimentation in the structure and missions because the core game is so stupidly fun to play. It took me absolutely bloody ages to get to the end of this because each time I started it up I just spent the first half hour dicking about. And in the end, isn’t the wondrous joy of play rather than the regimented satisfaction of progress what games are really about? Makes you think, man. Makes you think.



9. OnRush (PS4)

Jesus, where to start with this one. Onrush is a game that’s so magnificently weird, so belligerently unique, so plain fucking odd, that it brought down its studio and killed the genre it created within about a month of its release. Now that’s some tantrum. Less ‘I’m going home and taking my ball with me’ and more ‘I’m going home and I’ve murdered all the footballers and I’ve abolished the sphere’.

Despite looking like every single one of those 360 racing games with a one word, xxxtreme, tough guy name like ‘TORQUE’ or ‘SHRED’ or ‘JACULATE’,  it actually played like none of them. Y’see, despite being full of cars and tracks and jostling for position, this isn’t a racing game. It doesn’t even have a finish line. In fact, more often than not, being in the lead puts you at a disadvantage. I know, I’m blowing your mind here like Elon blazing it up on a podcast (a topical reference for you there).

It’s a team deathmatch arcade car smasher; a game that doesn’t welcome classification or comparison. You can say it’s a bit like Burnout with the reward mechanic on high speed takedowns and near misses. Or a bit like Overwatch with its focus on teamwork and common goals. But really, it’s like nothing, and this perhaps goes some way to explain why it sold absolutely bum all. As with everything, we stupid humans all cry out ‘WE DEMAND ORIGINALITY’ but when it arrives we wrinkle our nose up and say ‘ewww, not that kind of originality’ like my kids refusing to eat anything outside of the approved five fucking meals that we have to eat over and over a-fucking-gain Jesus Christ when will they grow up and piss off so we can enjoy a risotto.

A crying shame then, as Onrush could have been the start of something proper spectacular. As it is, it will have to hang around as the player numbers fizzle out like a spoiler in a Marvel film, leaving those of us that did give it a go furiously shaking our fists at all the idiots that robbed us of this jaw-clenching, breath-stealing, thrill-a-second experiment.


Hang on a minute; bikes aren’t supposed to do that!!!!

8. WipEout Omega Collection (PSVR)

Can I nominate a free of charge update to a game released in 2017? Course I can. It’s my post, my game, my rules I can do whatever I like. I can nominate a slice of ham if I want to. The power, good Lord, THE POWER.

So here we are then: my eighth best game of 2018 is my fifth best game of 2017 except this time you can put your head in it. This is perhaps surprisingly low considering high-speed, eye-bleeding, ear-fucking space racing is an extremely Jolly genre, but then I do find it somewhat difficult to play this for too long without feeling completely revolting.

WipeEout in VR is like going out for a quick drink in the afternoon, shall we stay out or go home, let’s stay for one or two, shall we have a shot, a cocktail, two beers, another cocktail, a shot of some purple shit, some wine, a beer, closing one eye so that you can focus on your phone and post something embarrassing on Twitter, a beer, a shot, a beer, a shot, one last drink, a beer, are we the only ones dancing, a shot, a beer, cheesy chips in pitta on the walk back, a beer, a record breaking piss and then falling asleep and waking up with something from Pornhub still playing on the telly. In the moment its great fun, a super idea, but sweet Jesus you’re in for an existential crisis afterwards.

From the moment that the title screen attempts to burn the colour out of your irises by being EXTREMELY INTENSE BRIGHT FUCKING WHITE (a really rather stupid idea to be honest: when it loads up you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve died and gone to purgatory) it’s abundantly clear that this is going to put your senses through the wringer and the first couple of races are likely to feel like someone has filled your head full of sweets and set a bunch of kids on you with a baseball bat. Every dip, every turn, every boost, every explosion battering your brain. Some Prodigy song that you can’t be sure if it’s five, ten or twenty years old vibrating through your skull. You haven’t blinked for three minutes, your hands are so firmly clasped around the controller they’re going to need to be buttered off and you feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach by a boxing glove on a spring that burst out of a hammer from a Loony Tunes cartoon.

SOUNDS FUN, RIGHT?! But if you’re the kind of masochist for whom this does sound like a good time, the kind of person who only knows that they’ve enjoyed themselves because they can’t remember anything, someone who’s always the last one to go to bed, someone who looks at Superhans like Jeremy does rather than someone who looks at Superhans like Mark does, this is a proper, amazing update. A ridiculous freebie. Sitting in the cockpit at the start of the race is just obscenely cool. Gazing up at the Blade Runner architecture as you race past is wish fulfilment at its finest. Just, for crying out loud, remember to put your travel sickness bands on and have a bowl handy. If you do, there’s a good chance that this will be the greatest stomach upset you’ve ever had.


Welcome to Vomilton Keynes. Please drive recklessly.

7. WarioWare Gold (3DS)

Taken as a series, WarioWare highlights how infuriating it can be that Nintendo are so reluctant to do straight sequels. Ever since the totally banging original, I’ve been desperate for them to just do it again; to give me another 200 mental, quick-fire surprises; but they’ve always faffed about with it, diluting the purity.

Gold tries to get round this by simply being all the WarioWare all at once. And boy, there is a lot of WarioWare here. Cats living in afros, gold plated shits, a game that grades you on how consistent your signature is; it can feel a bit bewildering, having this level of insanity shoved into your face from every direction. It’s like getting into the ball pit of soft play area full of overstimulated children on a wet Saturday afternoon; potentially completely fucking awful but if you commit to it and just throw yourself in, you’ll probably have a brilliant time. It’s totally relentless, a bright blue drink of a game, perhaps best exemplified by the mode that doesn’t give you a break between games and flips instantly from the top screen to the bottom and back again, like a caffeinated dog with a ball constantly bounding about desperate for your attention.

But that’s just one challenge. How about the one that asks you to play microgames whilst tilting the machine to control how fast they are? Or the one where you have to keep an eye out for the bizarrely petrifying Mum, lest she blasts you with her laser eyes for being up past your bedtime? Or Wario Interrupts, where the big guy just decides to be a hilariously distracting shit, farting over the games and cementing his position as one of the World’s most brilliant arseholes?

Gold also goes some way to confirming just how wonderful the ragtag characters in this offshoot Nintendo universe really are, by wrapping the entire thing in a totally bananas cartoon storyline that definitely, definitely should be made into an actual show.

I got the uneasy feeling playing that this might be it for WarioWare. The games approach; less everything including the kitchen sink and more an endless, unfathomable universe of wall-to-wall kitchen sinks – its kitchen sinks all the way down; can feel like a full stop. This is it. You’ve had enough Irn Bru for now young man; let’s get you down off the ceiling. If this is the case, it really has ended on a high. A sugar-packed, e-numbered and e-fuelled high. Easily the best it’s been since the original. WarioWhere? WarioHere.


“Yes. Come on then. Come on then”. You’ve got to love Jimmy.

6. Mario Tennis Aces (Switch)

Despite sounding like an idea that Miyamoto desperately threw at Tony Hayers in an attempt to secure a second series, Mario Tennis is one of the more successful spin offs for everyone’s favourite heating engineer and this version on the Switch is something else.

Although I’m not completely sure that you can credit Nintendo with the drama that naturally occurs within tennis, the fact remains that the sport’s completely mental but inspired scoring system, its potential for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and the mind game possibilities of Derren Browning the fuck out of your opponent make for an incredibly compelling one-on-one online videogame.

Games swing from one side of the net to the other like a gigantic pendulous set of bollocks; you’ll find yourself millimetres from victory only to be plonked back a marathon away seconds later. And of course, the addition of the cheerful and charming Mario crew and the dash of madness they bring, with moonwalking Waluigi’s, windmilling chain chomps and…er….Spike (honestly, who at Nintendo is pushing this bizarre agenda to get fucking Spike involved?) means that there’s a delightful soupcon of something different drizzled over the court.

The racket braking mechanic, where you can lose a match with a single misplaced shot, is either the kind of lunacy that you’ll warmly embrace like a very cuddly bomb or the kind of thing that will make you smash up your Switch like a professional tennis player being passionate, apparently. I loved it personally, but then I’m the kind of weirdo that prefers the tension and journey of just about losing a game against a similar level opponent over the empty victory of steamrolling over a newcomer, so I’m all for these playing field levellers.

Aces’ adventure mode is a bit shite unfortunately and it did suffer from some character balancing issues at release, but what you’ve now got here is an online mode that’s just a tier below Splatoon and Mario Kart and about level with Arms for my money. Don’t get COURT out, this is a SMASH. It’s ACE. You’ll LOVE it. TENNIS.


There I am look; with my big metallic, black, bald head.

5. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission (PSVR)

A term that’s used with alarming regularity in certain gaming circles (mostly those of us that grew up reading 90s game magazines) is ‘grinning like a loon’. I have never encountered anyone use this phrase to describe anything other than a videogame, mostly because the image of mindless, vacant pleasure doesn’t really fit with any other pursuit (‘my lasagne was so delicious I was grinning like a loon’, ‘I’ll never forget when the children were born, I was grinning like a loon’, ‘It looks like nan is going to pull through, I’m grinning like a loon’). What with me being fairly miserable, I very rarely join in, preferring instead to be ‘sneering like a prick’. But Astro Bot is a game that is so effortlessly charming that I simply couldn’t help but join in with the loon grinning.

A virtual reality, third person platformer might sound like the perfect recipe for sick pie, but somehow the only hint of nausea this provides is a by-product of how sickeningly cute everything is. The bots themselves (that you both control and are tasked to rescue) are completely delightful; gleefully hopping about and flossing to victory with such charisma that you have to wonder if Sony have *finally* found themselves a mascot that I could give two fucks about.

But it doesn’t stop there; Astro Bot’s spark of genius is that you actually inhabit this world too. Catch yourself in one of the video feeds that litter the stages and you’ll notice that you’re a larger caped robot following the one you control. You’ll have to crane your neck round corners, peer down precipices and watch helplessly as a bird shits on your visor. It’s incredibly involving to the point that I actually found myself holding my breath when caught by a wave in one of the truly magnificent underwater stages.

To spoil too many of the situations in which this duality of bot made me smile would be to rob you of one the most imaginative and surprising platformers produced outside of that company that normally makes imaginative and surprising platformers but whose name currently escapes me (nearly there, only a few more sentences before I become the first person to hype about Astro Bot without using the N word).

With a relentless sense of forward motion, a series of brilliant challenges, some outstanding bosses and the third best soundtrack of the year (it’s truly amazing, but released in a year with a couple more utter stonkers that may or may not be coming up) you have a game that goes some way to justifying the existence of VR gaming. This simply could not be done without it. Sell your granny to play it!!! (And other 90s videogame journalism clichés – Ed)


“‘Scuse me mate, do you like paintballing?”

4. Into The Breach (Switch)

‘It’s like chess!’ screams anyone who has ever tried to describe a clever strategy game in order to sound like they have half a clue of the complexity on offer. Well guess what? Into The Breach is like chess! Huge, hunking robot chess with fuck off lasers and the cast of Starship Troopers.

Controlling a team of time-travelling mechs on a tiny checkerboard diorama in order to crush the insect threat that emerges from the ground, Breach is one of those games that never leave you in any doubt that the fuck ups are your fault. It blows my mind to try and imagine the amount of work that went into ensuring that every little intricate part of this magnificent little bastard was balanced correctly, but let’s just say that twice I thought I had stumbled on a perfect formula for victory only to have my arse handed to me ten minutes down the line.

This game can be brutally difficult; an hour of carefully executed plans born from the mind of Napoleon, blown apart by ten seconds of bullshit. But somehow it just never feels frustrating or unfair. Victory is always achievable and the manner in which each run across the islands culminates in a proper balls-to-the-wall last stand where you’ll be sacrificing teammates left and centre, makes what can appear to be a very grey game for people who enjoy sheds, breathtakingly exciting.

It does seem somewhat unfortunate that Into The Breach seems to be purposefully attempting to be as huffy and po-faced as possible (I think the game could best be described as the interactive entertainment form of Jeremy Paxman), as it genuinely holds it back. I think a little spark of personality could have made it an all-timer. It’s all substance, with very little style.

But never mind; this is an astoundingly fun bit of headache inducing homework. It’s like doing a PhD on the science of water slides or painstakingly documenting your favourite pornography scenes in a spreadsheet; thankless, gruelling, (some would say) pointless work that manages to be brilliant fun. From the initial thud as your big, metal dudes land (one of my absolute favourite uses of rumble this generation, vibration fans) to your inevitable, heart-breaking failure this is an exceptionally well-designed piece of work. Something that I admire, enjoy and can never hope to completely understand. It’s like chess!


This is a about as exciting as it looks, I’m afraid. It’s well BBC4.

3. Just Beats & Shapes (Switch)

There’s this bit really early in Just Beats & Shapes where it proudly and relentless reels off the entire track list. Although the artists and songs contained therein are unlikely to get booker for the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party leaping for the phone anytime soon, this short sequence feels like the developer putting their arm round your shoulder and whispering gently but confidentially in your ear ‘that first ten minutes was pretty fucking special wasn’t it? Just wait until you get a load of this lot’.

Ostensibly a shoot ’em up without any shooting, you control a small blue square tasked with avoiding the colour pink. But good God you’ll have difficulty, because the pink is completely fucking amazing. It pulses, explodes and dances along to the music; smoothly transforming from a pounding equaliser to a spinning box of buzz saws before evolving into a wide-eyed, pill-munching, acid rave smiley trying to dab you to death.

This is a gloriously inventive game, clearly heavily influenced by the work of synaesthesia genius Tetsuya Mizuguchi, but never has anyone got this close to his see-the-sound style before. Fantastically, despite the obvious comparison, this manages to dance to its own tune by also being unexpectedly hilarious. There’s proper wit here in both the level and sound design; a real flash of character that, dare I say it, can sometimes feel missing in a Mizuguchi game.

Before I go back to the breathless praise, it’s probably worth pointing out that the music is pretty niche. Unless like me, you’re a Dad-dance chemical casualty that enjoys his music to sounds like Aphex Twin throwing a Spectrum down the stairs there’s a real chance that you won’t connect with what is on offer here. You’d be insanely wrong of course; the Just Beats & Shapes track list also happens to be my most listened to album of the year. Packed with the absolute best beeps and beats, with just the right level of cheesy wankery and several charming nostalgic nods, it peaks with the utterly magnificent ‘Close To Me’, four minutes of the dirtiest, fuckyiest chiptunes you’re ever likely to hear.

But to single one track for praise seems unfair, likewise to praise the music without praising the mad shit on the screen that goes with it. Just Shapes & Beats is a game that celebrates the oldest of old school videogame music with all the flair of a Michel Gondry music video, and it got me over my rational hatred of ampersands. By some margin, the most overlooked game of the past few years. Get the fuck on it.


Visual representation of the inside of my head when someone calls up for a chat.

2. Super Smash Bros: Ultimate (Switch)

My surname is Scott and absolute tiresome dickhead that I am I like to refer to the film director Ridley Scott as ‘Uncle Ridders’. This is despite the fact that of the three people I live with, two are under ten and couldn’t give a floss who he is, and the other enters a zen-like state to filter out my bullshit the instant she walks through the door. It’s a joke that no one cares about other than myself. A mastabatory reference. Smash on Switch is utterly rammed with these.

Not least of all Ridley himself. Not Uncle Ridders you understand (fingers crossed for the DLC!!!) but the baddie from Metroid that vast swathes of the audience will either never have encountered or completely forgotten about. But Rear Admiral Ridlington of the Space Pirates is as ubiquitous and famous as my old blood relative Ridley Scott compared to some of the other faces you’ll find here. Callbacks that are so obscure that literally nobody is going to recognise them all. Huge great generational divides of characters that mean everything to to those born in the 20th century, nothing to those born after and visa versa. It’s like a YouTuber on Strictly.

Fortunately Smash unites one and all where it really matters. You could have never played a videogame before, pick up a pad and make something spectacular happen on the screen. But to truly understand everything that is going on here will take hundreds and hundreds of hours. There’s over seventy characters in this and after all my time with it I feel comfortable with approximately two. It would seem impossibly daunting if it wasn’t also outrageously fun. ‘Ultimate’ is the kind of name Little Chef would give the breakfast that nobody could possibly finish. This is a £25 roadside fry-up of a game except actually delicious.

There’s an infectious enthusiasm in everything the game does that means that even when it doesn’t quite pull something off perfectly (and Smash has often felt unusually ramshackle when compared to the PERFECTLY ORGANISED GOVERNMENT APPROVED SPORTSDAY FUN that Nintendo normally puts out) you can’t help but fall for it. Why not have a shoot ’em in the credits? Why not put it the thematically wonky Bayonetta? Why not allude to a Metal Gear Solid character with a nuke in her uterus?  Well, there’s plenty of reasons not to do that last one, but you get the idea.

Ultimate also boasts the mind-meltingly huge Spirits mode. This thing is ridiculously long, like a baguette that Roy Castle has gone to have a look at. It also happens to be one of the most compelling, surprising and enjoyable RPGs I’ve played for years and is totally dominating my playtime as I write this. Aside from Odyssey it’s my favourite single player experience on the Switch which from the traditionally mulitplayer focused genre of beat ’em ups is saying something. It just makes me feel good and constantly reminds me how good all games; not just this one; can be.

Smash isn’t the self-indulgent celebration of Nintendo history it once was. Smash is now a celebration of the entire medium. It’s a party at the end of the world. It’s a game in which it seems anything could happen, and frequently does. And, like Mario Kart 8, it’s a game that feels like it’s the absolute pinnacle of the a long, historic series. Just how in the sweet merry Christ will they ever better this? Can’t wait to find out.


YES! I love this game! “Get Over Here!” Classic.

1. Tetris Effect (PS4/PSVR)

If I have to lay a criticism at the door of Tetris Effect, it’s that it peaks a little early. This is somewhat understandable, given that the first level is possibly the most beautiful five minutes in the history of videogames. Much like the title screen that sees the tetrimimos hovering over the horizon of Earth, that’s an astronomically high bar.

Starting in the very depths of the deepest of oceans, your actions sending sonic ripples of light through the darkness, you awaken the magical creatures that sleep just beyond the realms of reality. A school of fish, or could they be stars, swim in perfect synchronicity , darting amongst the fins of a great, ageless whale made entirely of light, born at the very beginning of the universe from the very corners of creation. It sings. The call in perfect harmony with a song that feels like it was written by another species such is the level of understanding, forgiveness and empathy. Something so impossible, so divine, so bewitching cannot possibly created by a human. But the majesty of the music comes tinged with sadness, with a message laced with a deadly threat “Don’t you forget it”, it warns, “we’re all connected in this life”.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that the first level is really fucking good. So good, and this goes for the rest of the game if we’re being completely honest, that the playing itself; the spinning, the dropping, the clearing of blocks; takes a back seat. It’s not really what you’re here for. It’s something to do in the background whilst all this mad shit goes on around you. But, in the main Journey mode at least, this disregard for the mechanics of what is arguably the most perfectly designed videogame, seems intentional. The Tetris is there to relax your brain, to distract your consciousness and allow your mind to wander. To allow you to wallow in the sights and sounds. It’s dream-inducing, it’s hallucinogenic, it’s meditation. That’s some set of balls: looking at Tetris and thinking, “y’know what, I think we can make this better”.

Anyone who has played Rez or Lumines will be familiar with the idea of what is going on here; you’re not only playing, you’re performing. Every movement you make synchronises with what you see and what you hear. You can find yourself no longer playing to compete, but to entertain. To entertain a vast, enraptured crowd of one all inside your own head.

And it can literally be in your head too, because this trip can take place entirely in VR. Somehow, Tetris Effect manages to be a game that’s just as enjoyable on a screen at the other end of the living room as it is on a screen strapped to your face. You’ll notice something different on one platform to the other. The total sensory deprivation of being in the headset, of having the game completely around you, can be distracting. Distracting in the best possible way, but distracting none-the-less. Stick it on the telly and you can enjoy it for what it is, you can appreciate it fully. Like quietly contemplating a painting in a gallery after closing time. This is yours. Look at it.

There’s a whole bunch of modes that play about with the basic rules of Tetris and provide some fantastic score attack, leaderboard chasing opportunities – the kind of thing that I’d normally be shouting about from the rooftops. But Journey is so spectacularly good that I’ve just read back through this post and realised how little I’ve dicked about. You can’t with this. It demands respect.

It’s a story about the wonder of human endeavour, about how far we have come and how it could all easily come crashing down around us. It’s a story about the fragility of our planet but also about its power to overcome. It’s a story about faith, about society, about nature, about joy, about peace. “It’s all connected. We’re all connected in this…”.

Tetris Effect is named after the phenomenon of feeling like you’re still playing Tetris long after you’ve finished. When you still mentally spin and clear blocks but without a pad in your hands. Rarely has a title been more apt. This is a game I can’t stop thinking about. A game that will stick with me forever.  An all-timer. A stone cold classic. A total masterpiece. Better than Rez? You know what, it just might be.


“An astronomically high bar” – GET IT?!



Some time ago, a unpronounceable forum that I frequent started a thread in which you had to add or remove a letter from the title of a videogame and then write a synopsis.  I became mildly obsessed with this and have collated my efforts below.

For those of you that are popular and happy enough to not know the names of every videogame released since 1980, I have also put a list of the original titles at the very bottom in case some of the titles are a little obscure.

Yes, we all thought of ‘Ass Effect’, very clever, well done you.

And yes, I’m well aware that I’ve added two letters to the word ‘synopsis’ in the title of this post so it doesn’t work, fuck you very much.

If any of you would like to fund the development of these games please contact my agent.

Platoon: Nintendo try their hand at adapting Oliver Stone’s Vietnam war epic for the preteen market.

Heavy Ran: Daley Thompson’s Decathlon re-imagined with all the competitors wearing orthopaedic shoes.

Isgaea: Players are presented with two items and have to decide which is the more homosexual.

Donkey Kong Cuntry: Take control of the iconic ape as he does loads of really annoying and unnecessary things.

Yoshi’s Wooly Word: Play as the lovable green dinosaur as he tries to present a late night, magazine show alongside Terry Christian. Can you ensure that Iggy Pop isn’t too fucked to put on his see through trousers?

SS Tricky: Think committing crimes against humanity is easy? Think again as you experience the trials and tribulations of ethnic cleansing.

‘Eadspace: It’s 5 o’clock in the morning one Sunday in 1995. You’ve done more pills than you can count and a guy has been sat next to you talking about how we’re all connected. Can you successfully negotiate your escape and tackle your come down alone?

Elite Beat Gents: At long last, Chap-Hop the game. Take control of Elemental and Mr B as they bring a touch of class and sophistication to the world of rap.

Space Chanel 5: The fragrance counter at Boots has an item missing. Can you figure out what it is before the mystery shopper spots it and marks your store down?

Wii Ports: An almost impossible challenge. Can you successfully launch a 3rd party game on a Nintendo console?

Super Exagon: She’s finally left you. Try and convince yourself that you’ll be fine and that this is a good thing.

BA 2K15: Soaring tuition fees and a competitive job market have made Bachelor of Arts degrees a risky prospect. Are you brave enough to see through your Media Studies course in the age of austerity?

RE: Your students see religious education as a doss subject. Can you reignite their interest by telling the story of Moses through techno music and laser beams?

Candy Crush Aga: If there’s one thing that the star of Uncle Buck hates, it’s inefficient ovens. Join him as he rampages across the country destroying every vintage stove he can find.

Ego Star Wars: That George Lucas is a prick isn’t he? Try and spend an afternoon with him without smashing his face in.

Burning Angers: God damn it you’re cross. Try and calm yourself down with a nice cup of tea and some colouring in.

Erbal Space Program: You’ve had a smoke and Professor Brian Cox is on the telly. Can you make it to the end without developing a crushing sense of worthlessness when faced with the wonders of the universe?

Halo 3: OST: The year is 2007 AD. You are The Composer. Your mission is to record the soundtrack to one of the biggest games of the year. But there is a grumble in the strings section that the cellist isn’t keeping time…

De Jam: Vendetta: Video game adaptation of Michael Douglas’ ‘Falling Down’, relocated to Kingston, Jamaica for some reason.

Balloon Ki: Visual novel charting the life of South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng. From a young age, Ki was fascinated with spheres until a tragic accident sent him into the depths of madness.

Ales from the Borderlands: Join CAMRA as they attempt to jazz up their image by going on a terrifying, white-knuckle bus tour of Pandora.

​Guitar Hero Lie: Relive the experience of performing on Top of the Pops in the seventies by unconvincingly miming along to your favourite chart hits.

Overs in a Dangerous Spacetime: Cricket simulation in which players and the ball sporadically flicker between parallel dimensions. This actually manages to make the sport easier to understand.

Unrave: Oh no!  Mum and Dad went away for the weekend so you had a few mates round and it got out of hand!  Can you unrave the house before they return?  Video game adaptation of that nineties Yellow Pages advert.

Mineweeper: You ARE Lady Diana Spencer. Travel through treacherous lands expressing sorrow at the resident’s plight while maintaining that stiff upper lip until you can claim your throne as Queen of Hearts.

Affordable Spacey Adventures: Step into the wonky shoes of everyone’s favourite sex pest Kevin Spacey as he attempts to entertain himself the weekend before pay day.  Feed the ducks as Frank Underwood, watch the Come Dine With Me omnibus as Lex Luthor or simply spend a lazy afternoon as American Beauty’s Lester Burnham defrosting the freezer.

DRIVELCLUB: You’ve enrolled yourself into a poetry class at the local community college and it’s pretty fucking awful.  Grit your teeth through over two hours of barely coherent ramblings about how nice sunrises are.

Paupers, Please: Bullingdon Club; The Game.  Experience the giddy highs of setting fire to fifty pound notes in front of the homeless before progressing right the way up to fucking over the poor of an entire nation.

Yoshit’s Universal Gravitation: Man, yo shit is HAWT!  But why?!  Buckle yourself in for the thrill-a-minute, rollercoaster ride as you try to figure out the secret to its success.

Blurb: Your GCSE coursework on Jane Eyre is due in tomorrow morning but you’ve neglected to read any of the actual book.  Fortunately, some chump has written a summary of the major plot points on the back cover!  It’s a balls-to-the-wall, race against time to stretch this out to over two thousand words!

Super Meat Boyo: What child hasn’t idly dreamed of becoming Cardiff’s premier butcher?  Maintaining cleanliness standards, providing a small talk service to the elderly, hacking a pig to pieces and enlightening confused tourists popping in for a ‘welsh rabbit’ – it’s all here!

Vansquish: Faaaaackin’ ‘ell!  It’s gone three and you’re on your way back from a job for a quick fiddle in front of Babestation before ‘er indoors gets back, but it’s only faaaackin’ school kickin’ out time!  How many of the little shits can you run over without your copy of the Daily Star flying off the dashboard or spilling your freshly opened can of Foster’s?

This War of Mince: Tragic retelling of the infamous tale of a family feud over the best meat to put in a spaghetti bolognese that got wildly out of hand.

Da’s Gone: Scottish divorce simulator in which you control a ‘wean’. Will your ‘ma’ successfully turn you against him?

ARS: Butt up against your opponent in Nintendo’s playful take on the beat ’em up. Over fifty wild and wacky cheeks to choose from!

Keep Talking and Nobody Sexplodes: As a sex line worker your job is to keep the customers on the phone for as long as possible before they finish. Can you manage to keep the drunken teenagers that make up your clientele just the right level of aroused?

Norman’s Sky: Zoe used to deal with all the bills and that and it seems that during the divorce proceedings the Cook household has ended up paying for two broadband connections! Step into the shoes of Fatboy Slim as he attempts to take on the Murdoch empire in his quest to cancel the subscription and get his fifty quid back.


Answers: Splatoon, Heavy Rain, Disgaea, Donkey Kong Country, Yoshi’s Wooly World, SSX Tricky, Deadspace, Elite Beat Agents, Space Channel 5, Wii Sports, Super Hexagon, NBA 2K15, REZ, Candy Crush Saga, Lego Star Wars, Burning Rangers, Kerbal Space Program, Halo 3: ODST, Def Jam: Vendetta, Balloon Kid, Tales From The Borderlands, Guitar Hero Live, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Unravel, Minesweeper, Affordable Space Adventures, DRIVECLUB, Papers Please, Yoshi’s Universal Gravitation, Blur, Super Meat Boy, Vanquish, This War of Mine, Days Gone, ARMS, Keeping Talking and Nobody Explodes, No Man’s Sky.

100 Worrying Ways to Quit Worrying

I bought my wife a bra last Christmas.

Its a fairly standard affair with two bowl-like, concave sacks at the front for storing your breasts and an elasticated setup that enables them to be held at a angle to your body. You know the type. She’s blessed/cursed with moderately gigantic bujungas and her brassiere section was deteriorating under the strain. This was was resulting in some discomfort so I thought I’d be a big, brave adult human being in a comfortable, happy long term relationship and put some underwear in her underwear (stocking).

Jesus Christ it was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. My first mistake was thinking I was either big, brave, adult or even approaching an human being. Initially I was caught between wanting to buy her something that would ease her discomfort without  being shudderingly unsexy. Practical yet hot. This is fairly difficult as I find something inherently attractive about all bras, especially when I’m browsing through dozens of pictures of models wearing them on my phone. This was when the guilt started; was this research for a thoughtful gesture or simply an excuse to look at some boobs? My mind settled on something between the two; this was something I had to do to protect my wife but also something that I absolutely must not enjoy. The rest of the window shopping was spent in a state of grim, passionless determination.

I settled on a black number with a couple of bows on it.

Now, sizing. Like a grubby little bastard, I found myself having to rummage through her clothing (which, count my lucky stars, she thoughtfully leaves covering every available surface in the bedroom) and having to cross reference from one item to the next in a desperate search for some consistency. At the danger of this turning into a sub-McIntyre bit of observational comedy, bra sizes are really weird. I can appreciate that the cups and harness section have to be independently measured but why does it have to be a combination of numbers and letters which sometimes, but not always, double up before moving on? Hmm? Hmm? Isn’t that right, chaps? It’s like boobs are in old money, going from 32 ha’penny DDees to a thrupence 40/F bit.

Speaking of which, decent bras are *really* fucking expensive. I can only assume that women are still paying for the research and development so that one day science might manage to make one that isn’t totally shit and uncomfortable. Either that or underwiring is made from platting together strands of saffron and snow leopard whiskers.

In any case, having settled on a design, size and being in receipt of all the necessary mortgage paperwork to fund this exercise, I was ready to place my order. But wait! What if it arrived in underwear themed packaging?! What if the parcel had ‘BRA’ in huge red letters emblazoned across its surface? Both highly likely circumstances from a company that specialises in mail order ladies lingerie I’m sure you’ll agree. So I decided to email them first and request plain packaging. This is when my paranoia and anxiety really kicked. Like an absolute lunatic, I managed to convince myself that the person answering the email would think I was having an affair. I mean, why else would I buying a reasonably nice, practical piece of underwear?! It’s the only natural conclusion.

I agonised over every single syllable, every piece of punctuation. I do have a teeny weeny bit of self-awareness, so I realise that if I had managed to find another woman consistently drunk enough to think that sleeping with me was a good idea, a stranger on a help desk probably wouldn’t give two shits, but this is the beauty of my worry. Even when I’m able to think it through and realise that what I’m concerned about is ridiculous, it doesn’t matter. In fact, it accumulates. Now I’m worried that I shouldn’t be worrying. It’s like Inception but makes even less sense.

“Yep, no problem” came the nonchalant reply, seemingly unaware of the existential agony I had endured in sending the request. It seemed my ordeal was over. But there was one final sting in the tail.  Targeted advertising meant that I was now being followed by an army of half-naked women on the internet. I’d check a football score on my phone and BAM! the screen would be taken up by a hottie in a corset. Have a look at the latest gaming news on my lunch break at work and suddenly OW-OW-OW-OW OOOOOOW! HUBBA HUBBA! Every screen I turned to was filled with briefs and boobs. I was turning into a smartly-dressed cartoon wolf. I eventually followed the necessary link to get this targeted advertising turned off, but only after I allowed myself a good few days bravely beating off the advances of an army of lingerie models.

So why I’m I telling you this completely ridiculous and unnecessarily embarrassing tale of woe? Well, when Christmas Day rolled round and she opened the gift, smiling and saying thanks like it was no big thing (which of course, it wasn’t; she’s bought me boxer shorts dozens of times and, to my knowledge, hasn’t endured a trip through Dante’s circles of hell in order to do so), I received a book from her called ‘100 Small Ways to Quit Worrying’ (bit fucking late, but never mind, that’s my wife in a nutshell).

What an ideal stocking filler for Jolly, I hear you cry. Well, you’re completely wrong; this book is extraordinarily shite. Unfathomably bad. It’s like the book was written by wealthy, well-loved family dog, such is the complete misunderstanding of the concept of worry. It was with some confusion that I started to read, such was it’s clear complete lack of helpfulness to my particular situation, but it turns out that my wife hadn’t actually looked at any of the pages. She simply saw something I might like, and bought it. What a glorious juxtaposition to my own Christmas present buying process (I feel at this point I should point out that she went through her own ho-ho-hell to get me Dropmix; an incredibly brilliant and thoughtful present. For clarity, she doesn’t simply stumble through the reduced section in Waterstones picking up anything that has some letters on it).

I’m going to tackle some of these ‘small ways’ below. As evidenced above, I feel like I’m almost over-qualified to pass judgement on their usefulness. I may know the actual answers to the anxiety problem, but I definitely know that this stream of Facebook motivational meme bullshit is not it.


I feel a bit bad spending a couple of thousand words hammering this dude when he may well suffer from anxiety himself, so let’s just say his name starts with an ‘O’ and ends with a ‘liverdelorie’


Hilariously strong start, given that my anxiety *specifically* centres around social interaction. A ridiculously impossible task; you may as well ask me to sit in an empty room and spontaneously create matter.


Quoting the legendary and well-respected philosopher, Timon What’s Out Of Lion King, point 6 literally seems to suggest that the best way to quit worrying is to…stop worrying. Thanks. I’ll bear that in mind. “These two words will solve all your problems” comes the staggeringly useless advice. Seeing as I already constantly use the phrase “no worries” (in what I imagine is my subconscious desperately trying to convince itself), I can’t see how replacing it with a phrase that will make me appear immeasurably more twatty is going to help.


The book is very clear at this point that any canine you acquire should be seen as a piece of weaponry. “Be careful when it comes to naming your furry friend, because ‘Fluffy, attack’ may not strike fear into the hearts of ne’er-do-wells” comes the horrifically twee and sinister advice. Referring to a potential pet as a ‘little assassin’, the idea seems to be less about companionship and more about getting yourself a dangerous, badass, motherfucking hellhound. Nothing puts my mind at ease quite like sharing a house with terrifying, wild animal.


“The more insurance you have, the less you will worry” is an excellent start for this dangerously unhelpful paragraph. Insurance is essentially gambling on the assumption that SOMETHING BAD IS GOING TO HAPPEN so I’m struggling to grasp what would lead you to believe that it would be in anyway helpful to people that live in constant fear that SOMETHING BAD IS GOING TO HAPPEN. I’m picturing a bunch of anxiety suffers desperately banging down the door at Avivia, gasping for one more hit of that sweet, sweet 3rd party fire and theft. I mean, the fuck is this?! “Buy some insurance”; fucking hell.


Oh, do fuck off.


“Feeling physically safe in the world is mission-critical” is sage advice for a ten stone waif who hasn’t thrown a punch in his life. Why don’t I just carry a knife? But easily the worst bit of this advice is that they’ve spelt the karate noise ‘hi-ya’ as ‘high-ya’ which I find more powerfully irritating than I previously thought I could feel about a word. Who the fuck thinks it’s ‘high-ya’?  People who own union jack bunting, that’s who.


Now, I appreciate that actually being on holiday is nice, but I only truly start to enjoy myself once I’ve actually arrived. Planning a holiday is LUDICROUSLY stressful with an ever branching network of mishaps, things to remember, panic points and complicated fuckery. Is your passport in date? Are you sure? Have you checked it today, it might have changed since yesterday? How about parking? SWEET JESUS HAVE YOU CONSIDERED THE PARKING?! What terminal are you at? What time are you flying? Have you given yourself enough time? Best leave RIGHT NOW just to be sure. Are you 100% certain you haven’t filled your suitcase with local flora and several kilos of coke? Right, now sit in this metal tube, full of pricks, with your knees up around your ears, listening to a baby crying, watching a fucking Kevin James comedy, with the threat of a terrifying, inescapable death hanging over the top of you. Yeah, planning a holiday is a regular cakewalk, dickhead.


The overwhelming bulk of my social anxiety is the fear that I am perceived as a useless prick by those I come into contact with. So it’s an interesting tactic for a self-help book to suggest that worriers should be avoided because they are useless pricks. I’m almost impressed at the mental hoops the author must have kept thought to write that this down and think it was good advice. “Just like some viruses are contagious, so is worry…Who needs more negativity in their life?” Very true. I should probably quarantine myself in a windowless room. Thanks a bundle, now I’m depressed as well as anxious.


The following are genuinely words taken from this book. “Everyone has a best friend. Even the geeks and nerds in high school had best friends (who were also unpopular)”. Truly flaberghasting. Also, as a thirty-something male introvert I’m obviously incredibly lonely, have never called anyone for a chat and can count my friends on one hand (with several of the fingers missing), so thanks for bringing it up.


When I first started to try and sort my brain out, I learned that a regular symptom of anxiety was the fear of being sick at an inopportune moment. I previously had never thought about this. Now I do of course; constantly; so I must get round to thanking the doctors for sticking winning the vombola on my long list of worries. Well, thanks to this little tome, I now I also want to wash my hands constantly. Genuine OCD (not just wacky, Facebook, 😀 😀 😀 OCD , like you have to have the volume on an even number; everyone does that Sharon you melt) is a close cousin of anxiety so suggesting you are enable yourself to disinfect your hands at any available moment falls very much into the bad advice bin.


Throw yourself completely to the futility of fate! Ensure almost guaranteed disappointment! Bring into sharp focus that the only chance of real change in your life is virtually impossible! Oh wait, hang on. “..you may want to do some research before getting too excited. If you’re unhappy now, odds are nothing will change following a financial windfall”. Probably best not to bother then. OR EVEN WRITE IT IN A BOOK THAT IS PUBLISHED AND PEOPLE WILL BUY.


This non-repeating dot pattern on the inside cover STRESSES ME THE FUCK OUT


I’m not the best hugger. I get bored very quickly and my boney, angular frame means that for the brief moment we are touching you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re hugging a bin bag of clothes hangers. Despite being faintly useless at it, hugging is nice so this advice is pretty good. Except! “Two hundred years ago, an eleven-year-old child was found living in the forest, physiologically and psychologically considered an idiot.” What a beautifully worded tale, please do tell me more. “Psychologists eventually concluded that the child had been deprived of human touch.” Lovely stuff. Please pass me the bleach. I fancy a drink.


“The average woman owns 20 pairs of shoes. Some own more, some own less.” Yes, that’s the very definition of average you staggering fuck.


Well, we nearly made it halfway before this absolute disaster of a book resorted to “cheer up luv’, might never happen” levels of twattery. Asking people with anxiety to “just chill out” or “just stop worrying” is like asking a horse to grate some cheese. It ain’t going to happen. “It takes fewer muscles to grin than it does to frown”. Well, it takes even less to flip you the middle finger.


Ah yes, the traditionally welcoming and stress free arena that is the dental surgery. Many a time I’ve found myself snuggled into one of those lovely plastic waiting room chairs, gently drifting off to the melodic sound of drills. The tantalising possibility of two masked strangers asking me questions that I clearly can’t answer right now because they’re shoving their hands in my mouth. “Can you do 10:25 on a Wednesday, thirty-two weeks from now?” barks a receptionist who for some reason gets a pass for being an arsehole to everyone. “The waiting room is a great place to catch up on your reading” suggests the book. More than, oooh I don’t know, your house? Perhaps not.


I’m not gay, so I suspect this would be an incredibly bad idea.


“Singing will distract you from your worries”,  the author claims, wrongly presuming that I’m not pig-headed enough to exclusively sing the entire Joy Division back catalogue just to prove him wrong.


You’ve only got 5 numbers there, mate (yes, I will criticise absolutely everything)


“No point in worrying what you can’t control. Your reputation is out of your hands, so there’s no need to get your knickers in a knot. Even when others are spreading rumours about you and your (mis) deeds, it’s only because they are jealous. Brush it off and get on with your life (which is too short as it is)”. Is it just me, or is this simply a bunch of vague, inspirational, cat-hanging-onto-a-washing-line bullshit that sounds like it was dreamt up in the Big Brother smoking area by a guy with a tribal sleeve tattoo?


Full of shit this one. “Stressed out because you worry all the time? Put on your thinking cap and brainstorm a solution”. “Being paranoid is no way to live. So why not have faith that people are generally friendly, helpful, considerate and kind?” “Not sure how you’re going to pay the rent or mortgage next month? Trust in your ability to earn enough to keep you sleeping under a bridge”. Advice that basically boils down to “are you a worrier? Have you tried not worrying?” Yes, believe it or not, I have given that a whirl. Have you tried not being a dick?


Yes, lets all just live in opposite land where houses balance on their chimneys and cats bark and everything is fine


Sadly, this doesn’t suggest that you simply follow the career of Bruce Willis (which is a shame, as I’ve just dirtied up my vest and thrown my shoes away) but rather work yourself into an early grave by getting a second job. Can’t quite parse how doubling the shit to worry about is going to help me quit worrying. I suppose if I’m literally too tired to form a coherent thought then my anxiety will go down. Clever.




My unfortunate victim and I stare toward each other. Not into the eyes you understand; that would break the unwritten rule forbidding intimacy, friendship and mutual respect. Seconds stretch into minutes, minutes stretch into hours. Time is redefined. Then, The Silence. The endless silence. The kind you’d hear in a morgue at midnight or in the farthest reaches of space. It has volume, a mass, a thickness that drapes itself over every surface. The food in my mouth tastes like clay. The drink in my glass dehydrates. The table is a prison. “So..”, I croak, “…got anything fun planned for the weekend?”



Think this lengthy tirade against a stocking filler proves that I’ve absolutely nailed bullet point three.


I consider lateness to be extremely rude  (as my wife will attest to as she bursts through the front door, out-of-breath after having the temerity to have a pleasant five minute chat with someone before leaving her office). What really fucks me off is that it seems like rest of the world has agreed that being late is fine and is no big deal. This is false. Being late is definitely, definitely a big deal. In fact, the only thing worse than being late is being early. I expect everyone to be exactly on time.  Want to be my friend?


I’m a member of a videogame forum that has been around for way too fucking long and is now basically full of middle-aged nerds who are gradually turning into their own parents and complaining about absolutely anything that children find fun, be that Nandos, Aviici or the floss. I reckon there’s a sociology study there about a group of people who have spent hundreds of hours helping an imaginary moustache in his war against a race of turtles loudly questioning why you’d want to bottle flip, but that’s for another time. In any case, amongst this club of ne’er-do-wells there’s one that ne’er-does-worse than most by cluttering up every discussion with a handful of appalling, catchphrase based ‘jokes’ that seem like they’ve been taken from Bruce Forsyth when he spent the summer with the characters from American Pie. One of these is to helpfully shout “HAVE A WANK” as a solution to every problem, no matter the severity. For clarity, this book has genuinely suggested the same advice as the most derided member of a community that regularly proudly proclaims itself as “The Second Cuntiest Forum on the Internet”. Appreciate this isn’t a reference that everyone will get, but I’ve never claimed to play to the gallery.


*Looks at camera*

*Shrugs shoulders*

*Freeze frame*

*Credits roll*

JollyNiceSoup’s TopTenGames TwentySevenTeen

This time last year I cheerfully suggested that I would be delivering my 2017 Game of the Year by “etching my countdown into the salted earth of a radioactive wasteland”. Fortunately this prediction has turned out to be a quite the overreaction and we merely find ourselves on the precipice of a global thermonuclear war. I’m sure this is of some comfort to us all.

While we’ve been hurtling towards tweet induced annihilation; like the characters in a Black Mirror script deemed too implausible to film; the world of video games has produced possibly its finest year ever. Yes, as I sit and take a huge gulp of 2017 before swilling it around my mouth and dribbling it into the spit bucket that is this blog, I can safely say it has been a truly vintage year. 1998 is often seen as the benchmark for these things with releases like Half Life, Ocarina of Time and Iggy’s Wreckin’ Balls but the level of quality has been so obscenely and consistently high these past twelve months that if you sit *really* close to the screen and turn the volume up high you can almost block out the final death throes of western civilization

So let’s have a look shall we? Of course, I went and bloody did a top twenty of all time not so long ago so there’s a little overlap. Done a new entry for everything though because I love the sound of my own voice (or the sight of my own words, whatever). Hopefully it’s enough to take your mind off all the race hate and sexual predators (“Race Hate” and “Sexual Predators”; coming exclusively to Xbox One, Fall 2018. IT’S IN THE GAME).

10. Prey (Playstation 4)

Prey is a first person adventure where you battle a mysterious alien threat on a damaged space station with a dark history to uncover and oh my fucking God I’m falling asleep writing this, it sounds shite, it looks shite, the name is shite why am I playing this kill me now. But for a game that is oddly impressive in the way it manages to make itself appear as unappealing and generic as possible, within the first half an hour Prey reveals itself to be astonishingly imaginative, constantly surprising and only really let down by the fact that it tried to cram too many ideas in.

Ideas like the Mimics, enemies that can literally disguise themselves as anything that then launch themselves at your face like the big-bastard, space-spiders they are whenever you’re near. Every room is petrifying to enter, you’re constantly on guard and you’ll learn to distrust cups, viewing each one with uneasy suspicion. You’ve got the story, which constantly flies in surprising directions. Be it the robotic assistants that your character has created, granting them his own voice so that when they’re giving conflicting information it only adds to the doubt. Or the bit when you discover that in this game JFK survived the assassination attempt for some reason; delivered with a kind of nonchalance that will have you constantly second guessing its importance. But the jewel in the crown is the character customisation options branching out in a million directions, allowing you to approach each scenario with stealth, fists or brain smarts, meaning that there will be dozens of different ways of tackling the challenges that you’ll probably never consider.

If it all sounds a bit too much, then that’s because it definitely is. Prey is ropey as all fuck in places but its enthusiasm and sheer volume of ideas means that when something doesn’t quite work for you, you can just ignore it and try something else. A game I’m utterly delighted I took a punt on and one that is taking up all my gaming time as I write this this. You could say that ‘all I do each night is Prey’ *punches monitor, microwaves hard drive, shoots self*


“BRB. Just going to shoot the shit out of this moon”


9. The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)

It’s really fucking difficult for me to talk about this without talking about why I don’t think it’s the greatest thing since baked dough was segregated into a sequence of smaller, equal sections but as a master of phrasing I’m willing to give it a go.

Hyrule in Breath of the Wild is majestic as all fuck. After your first ten hours in a game that will easily consume a hundred, you’ll begin to expect something breathtaking over the crest of every hill. The reality of popping upstairs will seem oddly disappointing when it’s not accompanied by an intensely beautiful sunset dancing across a scene of impossible wonder. The music and sound work too is simply extraordinary; I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that uses silence so confidently and expertly and it’s refreshing to be able to praise a game for knowing when to shut up.

But for me, the most admirable thing about this game is that it’s so ruddy, bloody brave. It’s like a kid getting one of those Pride of Britain award things off Davina on ITV. Even when individual parts of its production and design don’t seem quite right, or when the whole bloody enterprise is a little off, you can’t deny that its heart is in the right place and the intentions are pure. The changes to the core Zelda formula are so broad, so sweeping, that you might ask yourself “what have they done?” You might find yourself thinking it’s irritating that your weapons break all the time. And you might find yourself getting annoyed with climbing in the rain. And you might find yourself wishing for an actual, proper dungeon. And you might tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful Hyrule! This is not my beautiful Link!” But if you’re not terrified of change like myself there’s a very good chance you’ll find this a once in a lifetime experience. Hidden away amongst the rolling hills, the icy tundra and punishing desert are regular moments of unmistakable genius.

It’s obviously a truly exceptional video game it’s just not *necessarily* the one was after. But I can safely, assuredly, recommend it to absolutely everyone, which is more that I can say for half of the shit I decide to play. I spent all year moaning about it and I’ve still put it on this list, look. Breath of the Wild is a divine beast of a game. Pure, concentrated Nintendo magic. How the bloody hell do they do it?


Zelda is actually the name of the girl rather than the guy. Little known fact. Thanks for coming.


8. ARMS (Nintendo Switch)

The main theme to ARMS is so ridiculously good that had the game simply been a blank screen with the tune on loop, there’s a very good chance it would have made this list anyway. A rousing, triumphant football chant spliced with the kind of outrageous funk that can get a guy arrested, it’s gone beyond the concept of ‘earworm’ and its permanent residence in the back of my head means that when I’m not thinking of anything else, I’m thinking about the theme tune to ARMS.

But fortunately, aside from a soundtrack that’s as moreish as heroin flavoured Pringles, what Nintendo have delivered once again is their own fiercely unique take on a firmly established genre. ARMS gets rid of all inputs, the quarter half backward circles, the just-let-me-pause-the-game-for-a-minute-because-I’ve-not-played-for-a-week-and-I’ve-forgotten-how-my-fireball-differs-slightly-from-that-other-guy and just lets you get on with the beautiful ebb and flow of attack and defence.

With motion controls, ARMS is ridiculously intuitive. A curve of the wrist causes the twenty foot long limbs of you character to bend gracefully round objects; the distance and angles making each bop on the nose so much more satisfying. Every bout is like a boxing match between Stretch Armstrong and Mr Tickle and the character select screen is absolutely bursting with the chunky colours and vibrant attitude that used to be the calling card of Sega but is increasingly becoming the hallmark of this ‘New-Nintendo’.

ARMS has spent the entire year being my ‘other game’. The thing I stick on when I fancy a change from whatever I’m concentrating on. This isn’t a criticism. It’s not always the bridesmaid. It’s because the game demands such a high level of physical and mental concentration that I literally can only play a couple of matches at a time before feeling completely exhausted.

But it’s been there all year; I always come back to it. If the theme tune has become the hold music to my mind then the fights themselves have become the videogame equivalent; it’s the side quest that stops me from getting on with the story. ARMS is effortlessly entertaining; a pair of gorgeous, rippling, well-oiled biceps. Somebody call the vet, ’cause these swans are sick.


“We all float down here. You’ll float like a butterfly too”


7. Resident Evil 7 (Playstation 4)

Despite the odds being stacked against me, I have managed to secure a wife and it is with this in mind that I warn others in a similarly precarious marital situation to avoid playing this in VR whilst your other half is in the room. At one point roughly five hours in I emitted the kind of shriek you’d expect to hear from the disembodied legs of a housewife in a Tom and Jerry cartoon and removed my headset to find M’lady looking at me in a way that suggested our sex-having days were now behind us.

What might be considered as a fairly cheap sequence of jump scares, transform into a harrowing, nightmarish assault on the senses that neatly chops a day or two off the end of your life with every heart-stopping fright. I know what you’re thinking; what a fantastic way to spend your money and time. But for me, Resident Evil 7 gets the tone of its horror absolutely spot on. I can play the game terrified, but then turn it off and get on with my life without feeling the need to check under the bed for monsters.

It’s a good ol’ fashioned, wholesome horror. A ghost train that’s not trying to leave you with permanent mental scaring. And despite eventually beating itself up with the same “having-to-explain-all-this-spooky-shit-with-science” stick that this series always feels the need to do (I seriously don’t think I’ve ever played a game that is more THIS IS THE SECOND HALF OF THE GAME DO NOT CONFUSE IT WITH THE FIRST HALF WHICH IS DIFFERENT TO THIS HALF than this) those first fantastic hours as you’re tormented by the Baker family is a brilliant amalgamation of every redneck, cannibal, psycho bastard film you’ve seen with a nice dash of scary girl with black hair over her face for good measure.

Ma and Pa Baker are incredibly well realised: Dad stomps around the place, swinging spiky shit, unexpectedly crashing through walls while hollerin’ “C’MERE BOY!” and Mum cackles around the outhouses and barns, surrounded by swarms of insects whilst unconvincingly yelling that she “AIN’T GONNA HURT YA!”. Easily two of my favourite characters of the year, the game comes alive every moment they’re on screen. Which is somewhat unfortunate seeing as the best way to keep yourself alive is to keep them *off* screen.

But in those moments where, thanks to the VR, you find yourself hiding behind a chair, literally peeking round the corner to catch a glimpse of their imposing shadows, you’ll be playing a game that although is not quite as amazing as the near-untouchable Resident Evil 4, is just as successful in taking the series into a thrilling new direction. A gruesome treat and the first time I played something that convinced me that VR can do ‘normal’ games. Put it on your head, BOY!


“With winter just round the corner, the reinforced glass panes are yet to be shipped from Norway and this project is in serious chance of going dangerously over budget”


6. Nioh (Playstation 4)

The story of a western sailor who finds his way to Japan in the 1600s and immediately manages to integrate himself into every single aspect of their incredibly impenetrable culture may sound like the wet dream of the kind of prick who drinks green tea (*looks to camera*), but beyond its lavish dedication to all things Nippon this delivers the most startlingly complex and deep combat system I’ve seen for years. Not content with several main weapons types, (each with their own complete set of moves and pages upon pages of upgrades), Nioh then asks you how you want to stand when you’re bloody holding the things.

It can initially seem brutally, impossibly difficult; and certainly it’s trickiness is on a par with making it this way through a review of the game without mentioning Dark Souls or Bloodborne once. But once it clicks, and oh my God does it click, the wealth of options and the possibility for different approaches is intoxicating. With smart little mechanics like the ‘ki pulse’ (a move in which you replenish stamina with a neat, timed button press shortly after wailing on some fool, which feels just as cool to pull off the hundredth time as it does the first) and some truly outstanding boss battles you have one of those games that gives back whatever you put in.

Dedicate yourself to the noble pursuit of the samurai. Become one with the blade. Protect your honour. Take a really fucking long time to make tea for some reason. Nioh is a journey to an enigmatic, mysterious place wrapped in enigmatic, mysterious gameplay and unpicking one is just as satisfying as understanding the other. A real treat that would have been in with a shout of being my game of 2016 had it been released a couple of months earlier. Yes, my number 6 game would have been top last year. *That’s* how good this year has been.


Nioh. Niiiiiiioh. Daylight come and he wan’ go home


6. WipEout Omega Collection (Playstation 4)

Playing WipEout has always been the video game equivalent of being screamed at in the face by that terrifying skinny dude from the Aphex Twin video. A constant bombardment on all your senses, success at the highest difficulties and fastest speeds requires Buddhist monk levels of concentration, or at the very least the employment of some Clockwork Orange-style anti-blinking technology lest you divert your pupils for the merest nanosecond.

Omega Collection bundles together the two PS3 games, HD and Fury, along with the Vita entry, 2048, in a compilation that can feel a little mismatched thanks to the game’s settings at opposite ends of the WipEout timeline. But thanks to some truly outstanding remaster work; seriously, this is probably the finest cross-generational update ever; such petty inconsistencies vanish in an explosion of neon vapour trails and cool-as-fuck design. It’s virtually impossible to tell that these games ever started life on previous generation machines. The vast cities and the undulating tracks that weave their way through them along with a fantastically addictive photo mode really do highlight the insane level of craft that has gone into bringing these games up-to-date.

I’m not generally one for nattering on about frame rates, but allow me the time to grow a beard so that I can stroke it as I say that the gloriously fluid 60 frames per second here are absolutely essential to the experience. It just all feels so luxurious, like having a bath in Bailey’s.

Omega Collection also benefits greatly from being a bunch of games bolted together insofar that it’s absolutely gigantic. As you gradually make your way thought the grids, the speed steadily increasing along with your skill, it just never seems to stop speeding off into the distance.

Of the three games here HD is my favourite, being perhaps the purest expression of fly as fast as possible in a cool, fucking spaceship; but Fury with its modes that prioritise aggression over speed and 2048 with its delightfully throaty near-future engine noise are both brilliant titles in their own right. WipEout is such an easy sell to me, being basically a collection of things that Jolly likes told through art that Jolly likes to some music that Jolly likes. It’s the kind of game I want to be making if I could just stop bloody playing (and, y’know, actually had the talent). But this is the absolute pinnacle of this shit and the recently announced VR mode which will be coming in 2018 will only make it better, even if you suspect it may be wise to keep the ginger nuts near to stave off the travel sickness. I couldn’t give a shit personally; put me in it. Let’s get voming.


“This ain’t no technological break down. Oh no.”


4. Splatoon 2 (Nintendo Switch)

Fair play to Nintendo for showing the restraint to not take Ian from Marketings advice and name this “Spla2n”, something which sounds like it should work but it definitely doesn’t Ian; have a word with yourself.

But the strengths of this sequel go way beyond adherence to alphanumeric norms, and what we have here is a glorious expansion of the rulebook-ruining original. An online team shooter that’s almost belligerent in the way it tries to differentiate itself from other games in the genre, Splatoon replaces each bored, old convention with something brave and unique. “I’m tired of everyone picking the same maps over and over” says Todd CoD, “you’re going to play just these two maps on rotation for the next hour and you’re going to bloody well enjoy it” says Vidal Splatoon. “God, I hate having to make my way back into the fi…”, “way ahead of you Todd. Each time you respawn you can jump straight back into it”. “Everyone is a bit of an arsehole online aren’t they?”, “You’re right Todd; from henceforth the only method of communication between players will be the phrase ‘booyah'”. “I hate campers and the…” “Jesus Christ Todd, I’ve got it, alright? It’s all fine, I’ve fixed it all. Just fucking play it mate. Trust me.”

But you know Vidal, he ain’t happy with just fixing what’s broke. He wants to put his own sparkle on proceedings, and there’s perhaps no greater example of this than the magnificent Splatfests. On the occasional weekend, just irregular and infrequent enough to make them feel wonderfully special, Splatoon asks you to pick a side in an ancient conflict and then transforms the set dressing, stages and music in the game to make it feel like a proper event. The summer’s inaugural battle between mayonnaise and ketchup will surely go down in history as one of gaming’s bloodiest battles, beating all other candidates to become the most divisive and fiercely contested democratic decision of recent times.

That the endlessly imaginative single player or the addition of the captivating Salmon Run mode (think of a horde mode in any other shooter and then make it immeasurably less shit by cutting out the boring, fifteen minute ‘warm up’ period) feel like nonchalant afterthoughts only go to prove what an fantastically generous package this is.

But perhaps Splatoon’s greatest achievement is that it takes the famously toxic environment of online battling and makes it so bloody nice that it’s welcoming to both five year olds and the cripplingly shy alike. Both my children and I can play this without being subjected to the dark, diseased heart of collective humanity. And I’ll be honest; I quite like that in a video game.


Sophie’s Choice (1982)


3. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch)

Mario Kart 8 is The Best Looking Game. It’s ridiculously gorgeous. It’s the kind of game that would be formed out of a union of Don Draper and Joan out of Mad Men; such is its effortless sex appeal. It also sounds simply magnificent. Deep, rich and warm, jazzy, funky and vibrant, it’s a soundtrack so good that frankly I don’t want to consider how much I’d pay to hear performed live, but should the opportunity arise I’d like to forewarn my children to keep an eye on their kidneys.

Fortunately, alongside all this, Nintendo have crafted what is not only easily the best game in the series but also my absolute favourite game to play online. It’s just so fucking good and whatever mad magic there is going on in the background to ensure that every race is close but fair (arguably the first time Mario Kart has ever truly nailed this) it results in a game in which it seems borderline impossible to have a shit race. A banana skin on the final bend or a red shell on the home straight not only act as a neat metaphor of what it means to be alive in 2017, but also keep the races insanely close and the tiny seemingly inconsequential tweak from vanilla Mario Kart 8 on Wii U which allows you to carry two items rather than one adds a welcome layer of strategy.

Go offline, strip it all back and start to try and beat the ghosts in the excellent time trials and you’ll gain a true appreciation of what is surely one of the finest collection of tracks in racing game history. I often find myself playing racing games and referring to the tracks as “The One With The Bridge”, ” The One With That Corner”, “Oh, This One” and “Oh No, Not This One”. So often they just become one indistinct blur, partly due to the lack of memorable design and partly down to who gives a fuck. Not here. With one or two exceptions, there’s something special, unique or magical about each location. The music, sights and design all melding perfectly to create the exceptional. Melody Motorway and its plinky-plonky powerslide across the keys of a glockenspiel. Super Bell Subway and its weird marriage of the Mushroom Kingdom and Beastie Boys Brooklyn (MY. WHAT AN INTERESTING IDEA. I WONDER IF ANY OTHER GAMES WILL TRY THIS). Electrodome and its euphoric jump after pounding down a set of stairs; each step being followed by an increasingly punchy, synth blast; all taking place under the gaze of a bunch of Shy Guys and Koopa Troopers completely off their tits on 1-Ups. Mount Wario, a track with a name that only gets funnier with time, and its billion, million brilliant bits.

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that they’ve brought back Battle Mode properly and it’s easily the best version of the mode since the N64 days. I thought perhaps Mario Kart was sending itself down a creative cul-de-sac over the years. I’ll admit to rolling my eyes when they revealed the anti-gravity mechanic and driving across the ceiling to the bits in the air and bits underwater. Consider these eyes well and truly swivelled back into place. This is ridiculously, obscenely good. An absolute belter.


Nazis bloody everywhere this year


2. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)

Who likes remembering stuff? Yeah, we all love a good old remember don’t we? The problem is, remembering stuff isn’t as good nowadays. Remember how we used to remember stuff back in the old days? That was proper remembering! These days remembering stuff is all about the remembering rather than the stuff we actually remember. Remember? Fortunately, one game this year made remembering an absolute art form. It made remembering so good that it actually caused this 36 year old to well up with tears, twice. It was so successful at remembering, that all the bits that it did that weren’t remembering, despite being astonishing in their own right, were occasionally difficult to remember.

It was Super Mario Odyssey and fuck me it was an odyssey in every sense of the word. An exceptional, incredible adventure celebrating over thirty years of exceptional, incredible adventures its magic is that even when it’s in thrall to the series past, it still manages to be impossibly, fantastically new.

To spoil some of the more ingenious nods to previous Mario games would be to spoil some of the most spectacularly beautiful moments in videogame history. That’s not hyperbolic; on a handful of occasions Odyssey delivers the kind of warm hug, the kind of cheeky smile, that literally only the biggest, most successful name in videogames could pull off. It *needs* the history. From Donkey Kong to Galaxy, from Mario Kart to Mario Maker, there’s a message of love here to anyone who has ever picked up a pad and flung a plumber round some pipes.

And fuck me, if they haven’t managed to make him more fun to fling about. The addition of Cappy, a sentient hat that Mario can throw and bounce off, alongside a number of subtle tweaks and expansions to his existing repertoire, have made Mario even more fun to control and you only have to look at some of the videos of the free-running challenges (where you have to race Koopa Troopers to an end point) to see how expansive and flexible this system has become.

And you’ll need complete mastery of these controls if you ever hope to get collect all 999 power moons that make up this adventure. The number and frequency of these collectables is one of the game’s greatest strengths; there’s always something to do, something to try. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve thought I was close to completing a kingdom only to discover I’ve got a ton of moons to find.

This is also, easily, the weirdest Mario ever created. Within twenty minutes you’ll be controlling a realistically rendered T-Rex with a moustache. Several hours later you’ll pinch yourself as you realise that it’s referencing Dark Souls. A little earlier you might have seen Mario’s nipples. There’s songs in it; songs with actual words, that will briefly, unexpectedly, remind you of the golden age of Hollywood musicals.

‘Jump Up, Superstar’, an impossibly brilliant jazzy number that only reveals it’s true brilliance once you’ve finished the game, is the game in a nutshell. Surprising, energetic, knowing, loving, exuberant, magical. This is an incredible game and as good as Mario has ever been. Let’s-a-go, motherfuckers.


Qu’est-ce que l’homme?


1. Nex Machina (Playsation 4)

About fifteen years ago, I bought a bunch of those ‘arcade collection’ things on the PS2 in order to try and educate myself on the gaps in my gaming history in a futile attempt to add some legitimacy to my words when I wanted to be all snobby and knowledgeable about videogames. Taito, Namco, Midway, Capcom. They were all largely crap of course, videogames only started to become actually good around about the 16bit era (*trollface*), but I did enjoy two; Defender and Robotron 2084. Games which both struck me as Tetrisesque in their timelessness and were made by a chap called Eugene Jarvis. So when it was announced that he was teaming up with the studio Housemarque, creators of some of the best arcade style games of recent times I was rather excited.

What I didn’t quite expect was that it would result in literally one of the best games ever made. In other games where I experienced my usual depreciating time to entertainment curve (where thanks to my miniscule attention span, games become gradually less appealing the longer I spend with them), this just didn’t happen with Nex Machina. In fact, the reverse happened. The more I spent with it, the more I loved it. The more I appreciated it. Each moment spent in its mad brilliance nudged it further and further up my all timers. Learning to prioritise one mechanic over another, trying to make sense of the unfathomably deep scoring system, all whilst dodging an unholy fuckton of bullets result in a game that demands a ridiculous level of attention and skill. It’s like playing a piano and watching Only Connect at the same time. But when you pull it off; when your fingers instinctively make an impossible escape through barely perceptible route, synapses bursting in your brain as you manage to quickly calculate a way to combine this death-defying escape to boost your multiplier; you’ll feel superhuman.

Over the course of Nex Machina you’ll start to turn into its titular A.I; a cold, ruthless, terrifying killing machine. Part of the game’s beauty is that it’s never patronising. It just piles on the ideas, somehow always managing to keep it from the brink of becoming too much. Just trying to remember the location of the arcade machines that whisk you off to the point-boosting secret levels is tough enough but you also have to remember to keep your human multiplier topped up by protecting the helpless little dudes but NOT immediately collecting them, you also have to change your normal course through a stage because one of the randomly assigned disruptor enemies has just spawned, and you need to keep an eye on that power up so you collect it at just the right point, and you need to remember to dash at the exact point a level finishes in order to get the flashy bastard bonus and while you’re at it you’ll probably want to keep yourself alive too.

An area won’t take you longer than ten minutes but you’ll be staggered at the amount of stuff it fills it with. Time seems to bend round it. A campaign that can be ‘finished’ in little over an hour is the grandest, deepest journey of the year.

I put ‘finished’ in quotation marks because this is ludicrously difficult videogame, with areas that will forever remain locked off to me (I recall about eight weeks after release looking at the leaderboards and noticing that literally only ten people had unlocked the highest difficulty worldwide), but it’s not designed to be rinsed in a few weeks and then replaced with the next darling. It’s designed to be played and discovered forever.

In a few decades time someone is going to pick up a bunch of those ‘arcade collection’ things on the PS8 in order to try and educate themselves and add some legitimacy to their words when they want to be all snobby and knowledgeable about videogames. They’ll all be largely crap of course, videogames only started to become actually good around about the holodeck era (*trollface*) but Nex Machina will stand tall. To describe it as a twin stick shooter is to do it a disservice; it’s THE twin stick shooter. I genuinely can’t see it ever being bettered and with the heartbreaking news that Housemarque is going to quit this style of game (‘arcade is dead’ in their own words) I’ll be surprised if anyone even tries. It’s the absolute perfect expression of a genre. Sweet Jiminey Jesus fuck, I love it. Game of the Year? Game of the Life, mate.


PHWOAR! More like SEX Machina, eh fellas?!






My Favourite Games (20 of Them)

Originally written for RLLMUK’s ‘Top 100 Games of Our Times 2017″ thread I spent so bloody long on this it seemed a shame to waste it on one small corner of geeks on the internet when I could put it on here and drone on to my friends and family too.

So here it is,  My 20 Games of All Time! 

Read it.


20. Digidrive (Gameboy Advance)

Everyone will try and tell you that Tetris is the best puzzle game of all time but this is only because they haven’t played this. Digidrive can broadly be described as really fucking intense filing. You have to organise a bunch of shapes into sets before cashing them in and moving a curling puck along an infinite lane. It’s gloriously abstract and looks like the kind of thing that you’d see on the screen of a seventies science fiction show. It also feels a little bit like what I imagine being an air traffic controller is like. Constantly spinning plates, constantly stacking, constantly wanting your eyes to point in opposite directions so you can take it all in. Like all the best puzzlers it doesn’t dick about with a hundred modes, diluting the purity of the main score attack. When you lose the only thing left to do is to strap yourself back in and have another go. When I talk about my favourite games Digidrive is always the one that’s greeted by blank looks, but if you’re the type of person that takes an inordinate amount of pleasure looking at a perfectly alphabetised set of video games on a shelf then there’s a very good chance you’ll bloody love this. It’s the pleasure of sorting shit out (admittedly followed by the horror of it all falling to pieces, but nevermind that, eh?).


I don’t think I need to explain what is going on here.

19. Overwatch (Playstation 4)

Winston, the cheerful, blue space gorilla who is definitely not inspired by Beast from X-Men, opens Overwatch with a stirring call to arms. I’ve played this game an awful bloody lot (it completely dominated my Summer of ’16, to the point that over games just felt like they were getting in the way) but I still occasionally feel the need to sit through his lovable half-Churchill-the-man and half-Churchill-the-dog schtick. It’s a perfect appetiser for the game ahead; offering the chance to shine but also promising the awesome, high-fiving potential of good teamwork. And it’s in the classic curriculum vitae attributes of working well in a group but also independently, that make Overwatch so incredibly addictive. It’s impossible to succeed alone, you have to work together. But when you send D.Va’s exploding mech into the middle of a bunch of foo’s you’ll feel like a total dude. Or perhaps you’ll proudly toot Bastion’s kazoo, transform into a tank, turn the game into your favour, and nod and smile like they do on the telly. Or maybe you’ll produce a gauntlet of Symettra’s turrets so deviously placed you’ll have no choice but to leap from the sofa, beat your chest and proudly declare that this is your house. Maybe you’ll get the Play of the Game, maybe you won’t, but at some point you will likely have felt like a total hero AND like a cog in a unstoppable machine. You’re in the God damn Overwatch, man, and sweet Jesus it feels good.


Oh well, that’s a simply delicious broth.

18. WipEout HD (Playstation 3)

Back in the days when a video game could find itself the epitome of cool by simply having its main character wear a baseball cap backwards, WipEout strutted it’s way on the scene like Arthur Fonzarelli. Back then, it was really a case of style over substance, but over the years it evened out until you’ve got what you’ve got here; stylish substance to go with that substantial style. HD is the absolute pinnacle of the face-melting, super-speed racing genre. The kind of game that makes you grind your teeth and the veins stick out on your temples. It’s so intense that to play is to have your fingernails permanently imbedded into the plastic of the pad. It’s so fast that there’s a danger of drying your eyes through fear of blinking. You can finish a tournament having given your stomach and bum cheeks a proper workout from all the involuntary crunches. And my God it looks and sounds completely gorgeous. My favourite genre of music is basically ‘WipEout’ and you’ve never seen anything this buttery smooth. Not even butter. And then there’s Zone Mode; where your ship gradually gets faster and faster until you crash and explode; which is like a feverish, cheese-fuled night terror but a somehow fucking awesomely fun one. WipEout is brash, unforgiving, difficult and endearingly out-of-date in it’s definition of what’s cool. It’s Super Hans, basically, and a whole world of brilliant.


“Kids and grownups love it so, the happy world of…”

17. Splatoon 2 (Switch)

There’s this bit, a minute from the end of every match, where the music in Splatoon goes absolutely fucking mental. It’s the musical equivalent of overdosing a class of preschoolers on tangfastics, except somehow not horrible. And it’s a perfect summary of everything that makes Splatoon (and it’s sequel, which adds just enough to make it superior to the original) so much fun to play. There’s a structure to the chaos, a method to the madness. What may first appear to be a game about making a mess and flinging paint around (if you were being unkind, a shooter where you don’t really have to aim) soon reveals itself to be ridiculously deep with a whole bunch of genius tweaks that fix everything that’s wrong with the online shooter. And it’s a team sport that absolutely bloody perfect for loners like me. This is a game in which it is virtually impossible to be mean to, or to embarrass, your teammates; and for those of us that struggle with this kind of social interaction online, it’s an absolute godsend. One of the only ways you can communicate is to say ‘booyah!’ and I’m yet to met a someone that is able to deploy that phrase sarcastically. You get all the benefits of friendly camaraderie and a sense of belonging without having to, y’know, actually speak to anyone. Shut the door and close the windows, outside is dead to me now. I’ve got all I need right here.


As this ad suggests, I am the CEO of one of the corporations in Splatoon. Consume.

16. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)

“Mario Kart Eiiiiiiiiight!!!” cheerfully booms the title screen as you strap yourself in and prepare to swear constantly at a bunch of bastard cartoon characters. But despite being a series that always had the ability to turn the air bluer than it’s skies, Mario Kart has simply never been more thrilling, competitive and outrageously fun as it is here. Each race takes place on a knife edge; where mistakes are forgiven as quickly as they are punished, ensuring that you always feel like you have a chance whilst also allowing the cream to rise to the top. My absolute favourite game to play online, get yourself in a decent lobby full of cheerful chappies and the hours just fly by in a swirl of victory, defeat and disbelief at other players preference to race on Rainbow Road over Melody Motorway. Ah yes, the tracks, MY GOD THE TRACKS. Stunningly beautiful, fantastically designed and utterly devious. I could power-slide-into-leap over that baggage carousel in Sunshine Airport all day. How fucking cool does it feel to pick up the Master Sword in Hyrule Castle? I actually want sell the house and move to Toad Harbour. And the music is so completely fantastic I’m thinking of hiring a swing band to play the theme from Royal Raceway so that I can hear that triumphant trumpet live. That cry on the title screen doesn’t just tell you what the game is, it tells you how the game feels. And it feels Mario Kart greaaaaaaaaaat!


Grumble Volcano over Mount Wario is easily the worst democratic decision of the past few years. EASILY.

15. Virtue’s Last Reward (Playstation Vita)

My poor, long-suffering wife has perfected the art of appearing vaguely interested when I prattle on incessantly about my latest obsession, but VLR is one of the few times she was genuinely riveted by what I had to say. A game in which the game bits are almost certainly the weakest parts, this is an impossibly brilliant visual novel with a narrative that’s difficult to talk about in any great detail without giving some of the game away. What I can say is that it tells a story that simply could not be delivered in any other medium and that to try and do so would make it demonstrably worse. The way that each player will come to it’s ridiculously long list of explosive revelations differently means that to play it is to feel like a member of an exciting, exclusive club. Where the members talk in hushed tones about the sheer genius of the thing. I wish I could explain to you how good this is but I just can’t so you’re simply going to have to go and play it immediately. You will thank me later.


Some of my notes from when I was playing. The rest are scrawled across the wall and tattooed on by body.

14. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Playstation 2)

What I love so much about Metal Gear is how Kojimary it is. Hideo Kojima’s style is so weird and unique; deadly serious musings about nuclear weapons one minute, fourth wall breaking silliness and men who can shoot bees put of their mouths the next; that there’s no better word for it. To my mind, Snake Eater is the Kojimarist of the lot. Without the pressure of selling the newest Playstation (that perhaps caught Snake a little surprised in the vision cone for entries 2 and 4) MGS3 was able to fully embrace the mental and jibber-jabber away incessantly to any of us who were willing to listen. Yeah, it still doesn’t know when to stop talking and yeah it takes an absolute bloody age to get going , but once it does you’ve got a series of tightly designed, fantastically fun stealth sandboxes and a million-and-one ways in which to approach them. And these playgrounds are bookended with some truly memorable boss fights and moments of mad genius. I think the infamous and ridiculously tense battle with old mouldy sniper The End took me an entire Sunday afternoon the first time I did it. I absolutely love the bit towards the end when you’re about to be blown sky high and The Sorrow antagonises you through the cut scenes with a countdown to your death. The game is basically begging you to say “c’mon get on with it!” as main antagonist Volgin yabbers on, in what I hope was a bit of brilliant self-awareness from the developers. And what about the wink to the camera that is *literally* a wink to the camera? But perhaps the most Kojimary bit of them all is when it turns its ridiculous, Bond-inspired theme tune (lest we forget, featuring the line “some day you’ll feed on a tree frog”) into an unforgettable moment of drama. Snake Eater may only be the second best game to feature a really long climb up a ladder (number 3 on this list also has one; perhaps this is just something I’m into) but its really long climb up a ladder is undoubtedly the best. Mad as a box of frogs. A box of delicious, nutritious frogs.


Snake? Snake?! SNAAAAAAAAKE! (no, I don’t currently have easy access to the game to take a screenshot in case you’re wondering)

13. Nex Machina (Playstation 4)

Y’know in Pulp Fiction when Uma Thurman gets a shot of adrenaline thumped right into her heart? That’s what it’s like to press the start button in Nex Machina. From the moment your little Daft Punk avatar careens across the screen on a Tron inspired motorcycle, leaping through the sky and into action, the game grabs you by the scruff of your neck and shoves your face right into the screen demanding that you pay attention and fucking enjoy yourself. It’s so obscenely intense I would genuinely recommend that it’s avoided by those with a family history of heart conditions. As it is, I tend to finish a level discovering that I’m so rigid with concentration that I’m no longer perched on the edge of the sofa but gripped, mid-air in a seating position, lungs bursting as I’ve been holding my breath for the entire duration. It’s a utter masterclass in design, with random elements jostling with regular enemy formations to keep you constantly on your toes. Each level contains so many secrets that in order to max a score you’ll be giving your brain as much of a workout as your fingers. Think on this; It’s a twin-stick shooter that’s so ludicrously difficult that despite briefly having a score in the top 100, there’s a boss that I suspect I’ll never see. *That’s* the level of love and attention that’s gone into this thing. It’s a game designed to still be played thirty, forty, fifty years into future; new players honing their skills and discovering new techniques.  And much like its forefather and inspiration Robotron, you wouldn’t bet against that happening.


Cool, top 100! 69th?! Huh, huh. Sweet.

12. Super Meat Boy (Xbox 360)

Meat Boy may always be smiling, but it’s obvious within seconds of starting that he hates you and your stupid fucking fingers. This game is ridiculously hard. Outrageously tough. It features levels that surely must have been put together by a spike fetishist in a huff. It strikes me as the kind of thing that the naughty kids at Nintendo (who sit at the back of the class and throw screwed up bits of paper at Miyamoto) would make if they were allowed to stop making games about magic triangles and moustaches. It’s got that same lavish level of attention; that feeling that the placement of every single platform has been agonised over; that you only really find in Mario games. Its also got that same glorious level of tactility and control. The stickiness as you slide down the walls, the softness of the landing, the flap-flapping as he breaks into a run. Meat Boy was one of the first in a revival of rock hard platformers, but unlike others that seemed to reward a measured, thoughtful response, this rewards going hell-for-leather and making quick decisions on the fly. Its retro-inspired style has been used so many times now that it feels weirdly of its time, but although Meat Boy may not be as rare as he once was he is still exceptionally well done.


I think this sums up what it’s like to play Meat Boy rather accurately

11. Resident Evil 4 (GameCube)

Every time I replay this (and I replay it *a lot*; I’ve literally bought it on five machines FFS) I’m amazed at how consistently not-shit it is. Over its twenty odd hours, it’s never anything but balls-out brilliant. Many of the games on this list have a piss on themselves somewhere, but Resident Evil 4 just…doesn’t. It’s hit after hit. It’s a game with none of the ‘oh, not this bit’ bits. And on top of that it’s all so fantastically weird. There’s a bit when you’re chased by a forty foot statue of a dwarf. There’s a system which involves taking you out of the game and calmly making sure your guns are arranged in your inventory correctly. There’s this bloke and he has the weirdest fucking accent. He sounds like a cockney farmer and he sells you things and you’ll fall completely in love with him. Whether by design or accident (although I suspect the latter) the naff, cheesy, cliche-ridden story goes beyond awful and comes back round again resulting in the finest 80s action movie ever written. But Resident Evil 4 is really all about the combat; that wonderful, nail-biting, back-against-the-wall, last-minute-save combat. I’ve heard this horrible rumour that the youth of today don’t really get on with it. That somehow the tank controls and the inability to move when firing makes it seem outdated. Imagine being one of those poor bastards. Imagine not liking Resident Evil 4. Unthinkable.


I love this guy. “What are you planning to purchase from me?” Haha, classic.

10. Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

A few years back I’d come to the stupid conclusion that rose-tinted spectacles and what was the thrill of the new would mean that Nintendo would never make a better 3D Mario for me than 64. Of course as history has repeatedly shown, it doesn’t get much more Nintendo than to completely knock it out of the park when you’ve been written off. And so, snuck out on that machine that no one bought, they went and bloody did a three dimensional sequel to Super Mario World. What 3D World made me realise is that nothing, NOTHING, in Mario can really compare with the “go over there” simplicity of a level with a start and a finish. Jumping through paintings and exploring shit is all very well and good but I play Mario to jump, to run, to backflip and to ‘woo-hoo-hoo’. To test my reflexes on the best obstacle courses the best designers have to offer. And it’s an absolute testament to those bad ass motherfuckers, that playing as anyone else in 3D World just feels a bit wonky. Everything about Mario just feels *right*. Is there anyone sweeter to control? I think I’ve probably got less of a grip over the movement of my own body than I do over Mario’s. I mean, damn. Dat jump arc. Dat ground pound. Dat inertia. Oooh yeah, dat sweet, sweet inertia; keep going, I’m nearly there. 3D World is pure, distilled Mario; fresh from the mushroom mines; and it’s completely bloody fantastic. Have a bloody go on it.


Super Mario 3D World, Nintendo, 2013

9. WarioWare Inc (Gameboy Advance)

When he first burst onto the scene, I thought Wario was a bit of a naff character to be honest. An evil version of the hero is one of the oldest cliches in the book and it wasn’t until WarioWare that either I got it, or Nintendo figured out what they were doing with him. The premise is inevitably genius. Wario loves money and so has decided to setup a video game developer that specialises in games that are three seconds long and rip off Nintendo. What this means is that Wario’s wide-eyed, brash, thuggish brand of mania makes sense. Warioware is so quick, so relentless, so increasingly mad that it’s like shoving handful after handful of Haribo into your face. Some of the microgames ask nothing more than for you to press a single button. Some ask you to do literally nothing at all. But taken as a whole, flipping from one non sequitur to the next at increasing speed, it begins to feel like playing every video game all at once. In stripping the whole thing down to it’s barest parts it resembles the purest expression of the medium. Press this button. Right, now press this button. No, that wasn’t quick enough, do it again. Now do it faster. Faster. FASTER! And it’s all put together with this genuinely hilarious, anarchic sense of humour. There is something undeniably funny about rapidly pressing a button to sniff up a bubble of snot. Or to have the epic  journey of Super Metroid broken down into a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it boss battle. Wario isn’t an evil Mario. If Mario’s your best friend, Wario is your drug-addled mate Mad Dave. Probably not the kind of person you want to live with, but fuck me he’s a lot of fun to be around.


All I want to do is *bang bang bang bang* and a *cliiiiiiiiick-ting* and take your money


8. Super Mario World (Super Nintendo)

Super Mario World’s map, with it’s cheerful, a-tweedle-dee-dee music, has an entire lobe of my brain dedicated to it. Give me a pen and paper and a piece of A3 and I’ll draw it for you. With my eyes closed. Every route, every area, every path, every secret is all up there; like the lyrics to a favourite song. But delve into the ingenious vision of that map and you have a game that never dips below a stupidly high bar of fantastic entertainment and pieces of design so ingenuous that surely a bolt of lighting striking a tree ‘pon a mountain top heralded their arrival. What about that bit when you have to find a way under the finishing line to find the secret exit? What about when you find out that the secret world has a secret world hidden in it? What about THE FUCKING CAPE, man? With so many fantastic touches that were a joy to discover, I’m almost hoping I develop some a memory disorder in my old age so I can go back again for the first time. But something makes me think that even if I forget my own name, Mario World will still be up there. Any one of us than ran home from school just to get a few minutes more on it before dinner will know what I’m talking about. Just think about it; I bet you can remember every jump, every pixel, every sound effect. “Reeer-ur-ur-ur-eere’ (Castle door opening). “KLOPP!” (jumping on a Chargin Chuck’s head). And here’s the biggy. “Der der der-der, der der-der der der. Ah der-der der der der a diddly-derrrrrrrrrrrrrr…DER! Baaaaaaaaooooooun-wown!” (Finishing a level). For us of a certain generation, Super Mario World is a cultural touchstone. A fucking moon landing. That it’s still utterly peerless as a platformer after all these years is little short of a miracle.


Fuck sake Bowser, you utter bellend.

7. Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (Nintendo DS)

One of my favourite things about Ouendan is how completely bloody lovely it is. This is a game about encouragement. About overcoming the insurmountable. About cheering someone on in their time of need, be that helping with their homework, gaining the romantic attention of a coworker or fighting off a fifty foot mouse. Being a member of a squad whose super power is to coax the ability dormant in others is so bloody life-affirming it makes me sigh contently whenever I think about it. Fortunately, the game that is attached to this beautiful thing is just as brilliantly conceived. I’m quite a fan of Dance Dance Revolution but have to admit that I still look bloody awful doing it; like an uncle staggering about ten drinks into a wedding. Ouendan makes me feel like I’m a fantastic dancer. I might only be dancing with my hands; swirling, skipping and pirouetting across the touchscreen with my stylus; but when it clicks you feel like a member of a perfectly synchronised crew. You’ll begin to instinctively connect with the circles and paths as they plot their way through the music because they all just feel so right. It’s choreographed perfectly (with the possible exception of the swirly-round-in-a-circle bits but we’ll try to forget about them). I often feel it’s (admittedly very charming) Japanese bonkersness overshadows what is a spectacular game. That we’re all so busy talking about how sad the level Over the Distance is (where you play as a ghost trying to communicate with the love he’s left behind) that we forget how great it is to play. But all these things are part of what is an amazing, lovable whole. I want to *be* an Ouendan. I need two more people, who’s with me?


Guttenberg, Selleck, Danson

6. Portal (Xbox 360)

Portal is perfect. The only game I’ve ever played through in a single sitting, everything about it from the script to the puzzles to the journey, is put together with such laser precision, such flawlessness, that surely it was designed by a malevolent AI that wants to kill us all. GlaDos, the heartless, vindictive, cruel machine who serves as the narrator and taskmaster, has everyone that comes into contact with her fall victim to Stockholm Syndrome. I mean, she’s just brilliant isn’t she? A charming torturer, magnetic in her lack of humanity, and possibly the greatest villain in the entire medium. The script starts off gentle and teasing, before whizzing off into directions that you can’t possibly expect. And it’s not just in the words, but in the environment. Constantly hinting at what lies behind the curtain and beyond the walls of Aperture Science. But then the wit and story is just the cherry on the (possibly fictional) cake. As a kid, I always had a bit of an obsession with those ACME portable holes you used to see on Warner Bros cartoons and I like to believe they were the inspiration behind the Portal Gun. An utterly inspired mechanic that never loses its novelty. Portal is the type of game I’ll still be waxing lyrical about in some poor guys ear at a New Years Eve party when I’m sixty. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.


We keep a Weighted Companion Cube above the marital bed in case we want to get a third party involved.

5. Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (Super Nintendo)

Back in the days before the internet, it was actually possible to consume a piece of media without having absolutely every single detail about it revealed to you beforehand. I had no idea about the Dark World until I got there and it was at that point I discovered that this deep, detailed, beautifully designed world was actually twice as deep, detailed and beautifully designed as I thought it was. Link to the Past’s brilliantly interlaced worlds have simply never been bettered (not least of all by Nintendo themselves) and it’s in this marvelous interlocking contraption that you find them at the absolute top of their game. Ingenious dungeons, tantalising secrets, moments of drama and comedy constantly jostling for attention. That bit when you first arrive in the Dark World and Link turns into a pink rabbit? I can still feel that incredible level of WTF in my stomach (well, maybe not WTF, I was about 12 at the time and hadn’t yet fully developed my potty mouth). Link to the Past is the perfect name for it because every time I play it I’m right back there. But it’s not nostalgia; it’s the unparalleled knack of capturing that excitement, that uncertainty, that everything-is-turned-up-to-11 feeling of being a kid again. The manual had a sealed section with some secrets in the back and I remember nerve-wrackingly pulling it apart to peak inside; treating the instructions like they were the Dead Sea Scrolls. It felt so fucking dramatic! And to look at the game now, it’s *still* completely gorgeous. How is that even remotely possible? Zelda games are always an event but Link to the Past is the motherfucking big bang. It’s the point for me when games went from being somewhat I just did to something I loved. It’s incredibly, impossibly special


When I’m not playing video games, I like to chill out in reflective surfaces.

4. Frequency (Playsation 2)

I think it’s perfectly possible that if I had invested the hundreds upon hundreds of hours I spent playing Frequency more wisely, I would actually be able to play a musical instrument rather than spending my days trying to simulate the experience through plastic Fischer Price instruments and video games. Never mind, eh? As it is my fingers are burned to the bone with the muscle memory of a million trips to the horizon of that gloriously garish tunnel. To this day, I still tap out a rhythm on the shoulder buttons  to the music of other games when waiting for them to load. The three button, trigger happy, instrument switching system is just so elegantly designed that it turns a pad into percussion and the holder into a composer. It also features simply the best plotted difficulty curve I have ever come across; you’ll be declaring Roni Size impossible to finish one week and being annoyed at dropping a single beat the next. But you can’t talk about Frequency without talking about The Moment. The point where your fingers take over and conscious thought evaporates and you clear a button sequence without being entirely in control. It seeps into your head, it takes over your body and it makes you feel fucking fantastic. At the danger of sounding like that guy on your sofa at 4am after a night out who won’t fucking leave, Frequency is *in* me, man. I can feel the waves. I can *feel* it.


I may have seen some of these artists perform live specifically because of this game. 

3. Bloodborne (Playstation 4)

I’ve never really got this fascination with watching other people play video games; I mean, games are meant to be played right? But suddenly, this double-hard bastard came along and I found myself devouring every single frame of footage I could clap my eyes on. I couldn’t stop myself.  It consumed me. It didn’t stop with videos either; guides, essays, hundreds of forum posts; my thirst was never sated for a new take on what the fuck was going on. Rather like the blood transfusion procedure for which it’s famous,  Yarnham can really get under your skin. But the true star here is the combat; simply the greatest battle system ever designed.  Where Dark Souls is all tippy-toey, sneaky-weaky round a corner, Bloodborne is all up-in-your-face and FUCKIN’ C’MON THEN!  The moment to moment duels with the regular baddies are good enough, but the run of  boss fights is truly *astonishing*.  I roared so loud after beating Father Gascoigne I nearly woke the children up.  I punched the air so hard after Rom I nearly smashed the light fitting. I don’t think I’ve ever truly calmed down after beating Ludwig. And the fight with Lady Maria is *so* good I should probably keep instinctual bodily reactions to myself. Bloodborne is more simply a video game to me; it’s an impossibly brilliant ‘thing’, a wonderful whole; and it makes me go all misty-eyed and look into the middle distance when I think about it. So good. So, so, SO  good.


Gritty reboot of Downton Abbey comfirmed

2. Rock Band 3 (Playstation 3)

Part of the appeal of video games for me is the wish fulfilment. Who hasn’t idly dreamed of beating a plumber at tennis or of shooting a man? But none come near to the trick that Rock Band pulls in convincing you that yourself and three drunk mates, click-clacking and wailing as you systematically destroy the history of popular music, are actually talented, world beating musicians. It’s a game capable of producing moments of complete euphoria. One of my absolute favourite gaming moments was the time when myself on the drums and my mates on guitar and bass simultaneously joined in with the backing vocals whilst my wife belted out the chorus. There was no in-game benefit to this. There was no in-game suggestion that we should do it. But in that moment, when everything clicked and it felt *right*, we simply couldn’t stop ourselves. Rock Band is genuinely responsible for widening my music tastes. It gives me new found respect for whole genres I would have otherwise written off. It makes me listen to music in a different way. I’ll break a track down and concentrate on the parts, gaining a greater appreciation of the whole. Now when I daydream whilst listening to music, I no longer imagine I’m playing the song on stage, I imagine I’m *playing the song on Rock Band on stage*. It’s a game I can play whatever my mood and feel better once I’m finished. It’s a game that has me shutting the curtains and dancing round my living room. It’s a game about the joy of friendship and the beauty of creation. It’s a game that simply will never get old. I love it. I fucking love it.


I get Rock Band birthday cakes because I am a responsible adult.

1. Rez Infinite (Playstation VR)

I once spent an evening explaining to my wife how I remained unconvinced and disinterested by virtual reality. Which was great, because it meant when Rez Infinite was announced I had to backtrack frantically so that I could spend stupid money to buy an hour long game that I’d completed thousands of times before. But Infinite is worth absolutely every single penny. I mean, Rez was pretty captivating before it was able to have a complete monopoly on absolutely everything that you see and hear, but now it’s like have an entire dance festival take place directly in your head. And it somehow manages to make one of the greatest games of all time better. I don’t know how many times I’ve played through Area 5 in the past fifteen years  (I reckon it must be knocking in the hundreds) and still, STILL, Infinite had me noticing a detail I’ve never registered before. The Running Man boss at the end of Area 4 was rather gripping when he was restricted to a two dimensional plane on the other side of the living room. Now he’s right bloody behind you. And then there’s Area X. I can help but admire the colossal balls it must have demanded to of decide to add an extra level to Rez; it’s like adding an extra track to a revered concept album. But miraculously, it’s actually more intense, thrilling and plain brilliant than what has gone before. A heart-achingly glorious journey past neon pyramids and through wire frame cities that makes you feel like you’re actually flying. This may sound completely ridiculous, but Area X is perhaps the closest I’ve had to a religious experience. God and the majesty of the universe is in here somewhere, between the thumping beats, pulsating visuals and the two televisions sets mounted inches from your retinas. Like anything this much fun, Rez in VR can’t possibly be good for you. Every trip through the soundscape must burst a few synapses and detach you a little further from the real world (the lyrics “mind killer” have never been more appropriate). But who gives a shit? Rez Infinite is a masterpiece. A singularly fantastic vision. And It’s The Greatest Game of All Time.


Yeah, it’s alright.






I AM FIRE or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Fear the Bomb

The ‘nature versus nurture’ debate explores the argument that human behaviour is determined either by our biology or by our environment (yes, I did take GCSE Sociology, thanks for asking). Is personality a predetermined product of your genes or is it moulded and shaped by the events and experiences of life? Basically; are you born a prick?

My family tree boasts a rich and varied assortment of lunatics. My nan tried to change her name to “Seagull” until my Dad rightly suggested that it would ruin their lives. And on the other side, my Grandad swore blind that Wings were singing about an old lady called “Ma McIntyre”, despite the wealth of evidence clearly suggesting the contrary.

Away from cheery, harmless, old people insanity and onto more deep-seated mental health issues, I was once telling my mum that I have this odd tick in the back of my mind that tries to convince me to do something hilariously terrible. For example, whenever I finish a drink I have a powerful urge to fling the glass at the television. I mean, that would clearly be an incredibly stupid thing to do; but as the glass was spiralling though the air the look on my wife’s face would be pretty priceless, right? My mum replied that she experiences exactly the same thing. When she used to ride on the back of my Dad’s motorcycle, she had a similar urge to get off whilst it was hurtling down the A12. Haha! I imagine my dad would have been pretty embarrassed!!!

The fear that I might, inexplicably, do something totally ridiculous is clearly just another glorious facet of my stupid, bloody anxiety and you don’t have to be a gene genie to look and my immediate family and conclude that I was simply born this way. OR DO YOU?!

I recently went through the severe trauma of moving house and during this troubling time stumbled across one of my favourite books as a child, “I AM FIRE”. This book was a permanent bedtime fixture from about the ages of 4 to 8. It was the eighties, the world was on the brink of destruction. Either by World War III (memory is a bit hazy, but I distinctly remember Regan and Gorbachev having an actual televised wrestling match) or by something called AIDS, which sounds helpful but is actually quite the opposite.

A difficult time. Let’s have a look at the blurb to I AM FIRE, the book I repeatedly chose to have as my final thought before I drifted off to sleep


“I AM FIRE is the story of the relationship between man and fire from the time of their earliest encounter. It is told from the point of view of fire, in it’s own words. The very imaginative illustrations and the simple text provide the child with an understanding of the nature of fire, its importance for man as a source of light, heat and energy, AND IT’S TERRIBLE POWERS OF DESTRUCTION”

Wowzers. Still, “very imaginative illustrations” sounds good. Let’s take a look at page 1.


The fuck?


Strong opening; successfully managing to freaky as fuck and absolutely terrifying, whilst also summing up my entire physiological profile in a single sentence




I can’t quite wrap my head around these illustrations. There’s something powerfully dark about them. Even Olympic one looks like shit is about to kick off. It’s like they’re images plucked from a cheese induced coma.



Poor old Fire. Pining for the good old days when he could happily torment the fuck out of us.




In that last panel why are those two guys giggling like that? Just what exactly is that meat?



Starting to get the impression that perhaps Keith Flint was brought up on the same book.



I can’t be the only one picking up a rather creepy sexual undertone here. Look at the puppets stance FFS. “Needed me for heat”. Yeah, alright you dirty bastard.



As if I weren’t feeling uncomfortable enough, this section ends with the guy literally looking straight at the reader, pointing at his doll and raising his eyebrows.



The car driving over a field. The rocket blasting through the birds. The glass-eyed look of the girl as she extinguishes the lamp. Everything just has this dark undercurrent of dread.




Is it just me or do these pages seem like a commentary on western imperialism? Might have gone a bit over my head when I was six



Nice flammable, deadly, invisible gases. They could be anywhere. They could be EVERYWHERE.



I mean, wow. Think we’ve got the full set here. Notes of drugs, sex, and the evil clowns. A truly horrible image that I sincerely apologise for inflicting on you.



Oh well, thankfully this book gives me the tools I need to combat this terrifying natural force. Water, air; got it..


Fuck me, get in the car. It can’t be stopped


These words and images are what I routinely chose to experience just before I slept.



Are we supposed to feel sympathy for fire here? It’s a wonder I’m able to resist the voices telling me to burn everything to the ground at all.



I think the guy in the dressing gown might be the wooden doll guy after a shave. I can’t be 100% sure. It might just be that I’m so traumatised that I see his fave everywhere I look.


Uneasy, enigmatic finish. Tones of Ashes to Ashes era Bowie. Roaring out of control fire. And I think we’re done.

Sweet dreams, son!

Short Story – “Fluke”

Luke couldn’t help but notice that his shoulder felt fine as he began the 45 storey decent.

It has often been said that our lives flash before our eyes just before we die.  Perhaps a failsafe to show us the places we’ve been, the relationships we’ve formed and the things we’ve experienced to try and kick start a last ditch attempt at survival. Dangling the carrot to make you go that little bit further.  Congratulations, you’ve earned yourself some great prizes.  Now, would you like to leave with what you’ve got or would you like to gamble?

Even as it started, Luke realised that this built in defence mechanism was pretty much useless in his situation.  Hurtling towards the concrete below with a bullet tearing apart the muscles in his shoulder, it would take a monumental amount of luck to keep him in the game.  The first few moments felt like they were in slow motion.  He felt as though he could see each and every tiny movement of the hundreds of shards of glass that surrounded him.  And then, in those shards, the reflections of all he had seen and experienced.

Inconsequential moments in his early childhood.  The weird shit that kids remember.  An advert for some toothpaste with a catchy jingle and an ominous set of teeth that used to freak him out.  That time he stuck a stone up his nose and frantically tried to remove it in a blind panic, terrified that his parents would be angry with him.  A toy telephone on wheels that he barely played with but was always there.  Figuring out how to climb out of his cot.  Being sick in the high street.  The rabbit on his name badge on the hook he hung his coat on at Primary School.  He always bloody hated that rabbit.  Chris had a lion, Paul had an elephant; even Marie had that big dog thing, and that was way cooler, and she was a girl.  Why was he stuck with a rabbit?  It looked a bit off too, like an extra from Watership Down.  The bit in Watership Down when the seagull said ‘piss off’.  That was just about the funniest thing a five year old could see.  It was so naughty.  The time his birthday card was shown on the television.  Winning a huge great Transformer in a raffle.  Winning nearly four pounds on one of those 2p machines at the arcades on the seafront.  His Dad’s face when Luke got the winner in the Grand National and landed him four hundred and something quid.  Everyone was so happy with him but he had no idea why.  He could feel the combination of confusion and pride.  He was always winning.

More of that was to come.

The glass began to reflect full scenes rather than static images as his own burgeoning memory began to take shape, and he advanced into his school years.  He noticed they all had that soft fuzziness, like you see on old American television shows, and that weird brown tint that he always noticed in the photos of him as a kid in the eighties.  But it was different to just watching, he was reliving.  Simultaneously running through the events himself, while casually observing them behind the scenes.  It was as if his older self had always been there, watching his every move.  Rolling his eyes and smirking at the silly things he was doing.

A Christmas.  Not too sure when.  At a guess he must be about seven or eight.  He’d been awake for hours, clock watching; willing the hands round until seven when his parents said he could get up.  Those times were magical.  Sat in the dark, day dreaming about the contents of the parcels under the tree.  He looked at the clock as the second hand slowly crept past the twelve, closed his eyes and counted to sixty.  He had always been competitive.  Not so much against others, but against himself.  Setting himself tiny games to pass the time and prove his superiority over the laws that govern all of us.  He opened his eyes just as the hand hit twelve.  Perfect.  He allowed himself a little celebration, waited for the hand to complete its circuit, closed his eyes and started counting again.

‘…fifty seven, fifty eight, fifty nine, sixty!’

Spot on.  This was too easy.  Part of his competitiveness compelled him to make the challenges harder, so he found his Walkman, stuck in a tape, pressed play and put the headphones on.  The hand rolled round once more and he closed his eyes and started counting while the music blared in his ears.  It was distracting.  The rhythm was all over the place.  He couldn’t remember the band or even the song which was a bit odd as he was pretty sure he had listened to that tape hundreds of times.  But he could remember the moment he opened his eyes just as the second hand reached the top and the feeling of disappointment washing over him.  He’d won again.  This game was rubbish.

Shoe shopping.  God he hated shoe shopping.  The pressure was unbearable.  Caught between the desire to find the right pair so that the kids at school wouldn’t take the piss and the glare of an increasingly stressed Father as shoe after shoe were taken off his feet after a disgruntled scrunch of his nose.  Mum being Mum, all supportive smiles and wistful sighs at the whims of a fussy, ungrateful kid.  As Luke looked back at himself he wished that his younger self would look up at his Mum more.  His memories of her had always been fuzzy and he wanted to take this unlikely opportunity to catch a further glance.  But it wasn’t happening.  He was too fascinated with the overpriced lumps of material round his feet.  Ungrateful little shit.  Look at her you prick.  Look at her.

Stood in front of the mirror in the hall while Aunt Jools fussed over him.  Brushing non-existent dirt off his shoulders.  She’s avoiding looking at him in the eye, either directly or through the mirror, but Luke can see it in her face.  The look of exhaustion.  She hasn’t been sleeping, and every moment she’s been awake has been taking something out of her.  The loss has affected them all in different ways.  Jools has been frantic, panicked; sporadically exploding into floods of tears.  Dad is in denial.  Carrying on as normal.  Perhaps drinking a little more.  Luke is just numb.  Like something has come along and scooped out all of his insides, leaving a vacuous space inside his chest.  Everybody is being so nice to him but he can’t forget, not even for a moment.  It’s always there, nagging away at the back of his head.  He’s only eleven and she’s gone.

He can see the wake now.  It’s in some pub.  Not particularly fancy or up Mum’s street.  He realised back then that this was going to be the kind of thing he’d best get used to.  Crappy sandwiches and bowls of crisps.  Wandering around a sea of half-cut, chain-smoking grown-ups he gradually makes his way to Dad who is sat in the corner with a couple of his friends with a huge cloud of smoke hanging over them.  He catches his eye and smiles weakly.  Dad motions him over, and once he makes his way to the table, he’s lifted and placed on his knee.

‘How you holding up?’

‘Fine.  Bored though.’

‘Do you want to go to the park?  It’s only round the corner and I could do with the fresh air.’

Luke nods silently, and his Dad quickly finishes his drink before clicking his fingers in the direction of Jools.

‘Just nipping out for a bit.  Taking Luke to the park.  You alright here for a few minutes?’

Jools manages to drag her sobbing face away from her hanky just long enough to give a nod and a weird contorted half smile, half grimace and then they’re outside and his Dad lights another cigarette.

‘Got to get out of there for a bit.  It’s a bit much isn’t it?’


Luke quietly slips his hand into that of his Dad’s as they make their way towards the park.  His Dad squeezes it three times.  He always used to do that.  Like a way of letting him know he was there without having to go through the embarrassment of actually saying it.

‘It might not seem like it now Luke, but we’re very lucky, you and I.’

As he finished, Luke narrowly avoided stepping in some dog shit and noticed a screwed up bit of paper in the gutter.  Letting go of his Dad’s hand, he stooped down to pick it up.  It was a fiver.

His Dad laughs to himself and flicks his cigarette butt expertly into the storm drain, before pulling the packet back out of his inside pocket and lighting another. Even back then Luke was kind of aware that Mum’s passing was related to those thin, burning sticks that grown-ups liked.  He definitely knew she had something wrong with her breathing.  The last few months she was a cacophony of wheezes and coughs.  Funny thing is, he never actually saw her smoke.  With Dad it was almost a constant presence.  It made him happy.

‘Here you go Dad.  You can buy some more.’

‘Nah, you keep it.  Get yourself some sweets or a magazine.’


They arrived at the park and Dad lifted him onto the swing and slowly built up the momentum until he was flying.

And then he was falling.

He was back to the now.  The pace was building up now and his memories started to come thick and fast.  The months after Mum went were pretty tricky.  He saw glimpses of his Dad and some woman drunkenly climbing the stairs as he peeked round my bedroom door. He saw Dad crying in the kitchen when he didn’t think he was there.  They saw Auntie Jools less and less until all that was left was him and his Dad, spending night after night in near silence as Dad drank and smoked until it was time to go to bed.

And then one day it got better and he came home from school to find Thirteen.

Looking at himself, he must have just been a teenager.  He was in his high school uniform and had just waved goodbye to his friends to see Dad standing at the door with a tiny black ball of fluff curled up in his arms.  A huge great smile cracked across his Dad’s face, the kind he hadn’t seen for a long time.  It was infectious and Luke smiled back as he inquisitively made his way up the garden path.  This memory was the clearest yet, as he looked at the tiny pile of hair and noticed it had whiskers and ears.  It was a kitten.  A beautiful, tiny, black kitten.

‘What do you want to call it?’

A few days later.  Luke has the video camera set up in the hallway watching Thirteen play with three ping pong balls.  She’s acting like a lunatic.  Entertaining, scaring and confusing herself in equal measure.  Then, she batters all three at once and they fly off into Dad’s bedroom.  Luke picks up the cat and makes his way in to retrieve the balls only to find that they’ve all made their way into the tin cup of Dad’s practice golf lawn.  Luke runs back into the hallway grabs the camera and records the result of his kittens superior golfing skills.

‘What are the chances of that?!’

This gives him an idea.  Setting the camera back on the tripod at one end of the room, he places the tin cup on top of wardrobe before standing at the other end of the room with the ping pong balls.  He throws each one individually and watches as they arc perfectly through the air before each one lands delicately in the cup.

He holds the results up to the camera.

‘Too easy, eh?’

He gets the balls, moves the cup to the back of the wardrobe so only the very top is visible and stands with his back to it at the other end of the room.  He throws each one over his shoulder, listening out for the satisfying ‘clink’ as they each fall perfectly into the cup.

The day his Dad found the videotape.  His was fuming.  Over three hours of Luke throwing ping pong balls into the cup in increasingly complicated and impossible ways.  Bouncing them off walls, off his head, through tubes, along surfaces, adding spin, blindfolded, hands tied behind his back, in the bath, from a different room, down the stairs, over, under, through, around with each scene finishing with all three balls landing satisfyingly into the tiny goal.  As his Dad ranted and raged, he couldn’t understand what he’d done other than make an incredibly cool video.  A week later he found out.

They said it could have been from a lit cigarette, but they were unsure.  Luke’s Dad was adamant though.  It was Luke’s fault.  Whatever had caused their house to be burned to the ground was on his conscience.

This is what happens when you waste your luck.’

Luke saw himself tentatively make his way through the wreckage.  It was destroyed.  Everything was lost.  Most of it could be replaced. Dad always did well for money, even when he was on his own, but some things, pictures of Mum, were surely gone forever.

His heart sank.  Thirteen.  Where was she?  He frantically made his way round the house, making the squeaking noise with his lips that normally saw her running.  Nothing in the kitchen, nor the living room.  He’d been warned not to climb the stairs as there had been significant damage, but he had to check.  Gently testing each step before placing his full weight, he managed to make his way to the top.  It was up here, on the first floor, that he saw the fire could be no one else’s fault but his.  The scorch marks on the wall, even to his untrained eye, clearly originated from his bedroom, the one place that Dad never lit up.

With the guilt now coursing through his entire body, he continued to search for his cat.  He clicked his fingers desperately calling her name over and over.  A movement.  From the corner of his room, under his bed.  Something was definitely there.  He made his way as quickly as he could over to the source of the noise and look under the remnants of his mattress.

Two green eyes stared back at him.  And right next to her, was an immaculately preserved picture of his mother.

He never told his Dad through fear of having the picture taken from him.  The very least he could have done would be to have listened to his Dad’s advice and never taken his gift for granted again.  Never pushed his luck.  Never wasted it.  Perhaps if he did he wouldn’t have found himself now only fourteen floors and less than two seconds from having his head smashed against the pavement.

The memories were a blur now. Like a time lapse film from a nature documentary.  The sun rose and set thousands of times as relationships grew and broke down, money came and went and his face became weathered with age.  Judy featured surprisingly little, Thirteen was a constant. He saw his futile and increasingly dangerous attempts to recapture the thrill of the Ping Pong Cup Afternoon.  Fruit machines, horse races, casinos.  A hundred card games; the continuous flow of money, the look of disbelief on his opponents faces and the ever decreasing satisfaction of winning.  It seemed that everything after the fire had been in direct defiance of his Dad’s advice.  Always pushing his luck.  Always wasting it.

Finally, he’s 45 storeys up, in over his head, pushing his luck that little bit too far.  As clear as it was a less than a minute ago, he saw the anger, the chaos, the gun, the bullet and the window.

Then, they were gone, and all he could see was the grey, emotionless expanse of concrete inches from his face.  He heard the sound of a few pieces of glass hit the pavement before he heard an unearthly crunch.  Then he could see and hear nothing.

A beat; and he felt nothing.

Childlines – Things My Kids Have Said

Cosmic cat talker and radiology specialist Noel Edmunds has been safely contained within weekday afternoons for some time now. But there was a time when his box-bothering face was exposed to millions, weekly, on a Saturday night. It was a dark and terrible time when the act of “gunging”; simply pouring a green coloured liquid on someone’s head; was seen as cutting edge family entertainment. Fortunately we’ve all moved on from such puerile, bottom-of-the-barrel programming and now have All Round to Mrs Brown’s to look forward to. The joke is she’s really a man! It’s really quite brilliant.

Edmond’s show, Noel’s House Party, achieved the astonishing feat of being a less inviting  than the U.K Independence Party. I’ll be honest, sign me up for a bit of racism and lying buses if it means I don’t have to act surprised and delighted when Bros turn up at the door. But one segment, “Wait Till I Get You Home”, in which a child was interviewed separately to their parents, stumbled upon the irrefutable humour goldmine that is kids say some funny old shit (although in retrospect you do really have to question the parenting of someone who was willing to leave their child alone with a seventies DJ).

In light of this knowledge, my wife suggested that we have a book in which we can record any particular highlights said by our children’s inbetween their constant bi-polar requests and refusals to eat. This book not only provides us with a constant source of amusement, but also means we don’t actually have to remember these instances and can use our precious memory space for more important things like the names and concepts of segments in nineties light entertainment shows.

Regular readers may know that round here I refer to my children as Samus and Blanka. Not only does it afford them a shred of anonymity, but also neatly captures their personality for all you geeks out there. Samus, my six year old daughter, is bright, methodical and confident in her own distinct style and individuality. Blanka, my four year old son, cannonballs round the house like he’s got several thousands volts of electricity coursing through his veins. They both pretty well behaved and I almost never daydream about disappearing off on a boat somewhere.


The good book.

In any case, here, for your reading pleasure, are some of the things they say. Hope you enjoy them. I’ve spent the last couple of hours trying to be funny writing the above. They just shit these things out on a regular basis. Sickening.

Samus: “You’re so soft.”
Mummy: “Oh, thank you!”
Samus: “Like a cow”
As I was leaving her room after putting her to bed, Samus held out her hand. “Wait a minute Dad! Here you go. It’s a bogey.”
Daddy: “What are you asking from Father Christmas?”
Samus: “A train”
Daddy: “And what is Blanka going to get?”
Samus: “A train”
Daddy: “And Mummy?”
Samus: “A train”
Daddy: “What are you going to do with these trains?”
Samus: “Cho cho them over the floor”
Daddy: “Am I getting a train too?”
Samus: “No”
Daddy: “What’s your name?”
Samus: “Samus”
Daddy: “And how old are you?”
Samus: “Two”
Daddy: “And where do you live?”
Samus: “The White House”
Daddy: “Get in the house young lady.”
Samus: “I’m not a young lady. I’m a honky.”
Samus: “I’m just going to take off my sock so you can see the fluff on my nipples.”
Samus: “I’m not Samus, I’m the bravest tramp”
Whilst Samus is playing guitar on a broom I say;
Daddy: “Oh, you’re rocking out. Can I join in?”
Samus: “Sure.  Grab a mop.”
Samus: “If you see a bird say ‘Alan'”
Blanka: “ALAN!!!”
Samus: “Dad. The bad news is I’ve done a poo. But the good news is I’ve done a wee.”
Samus has invented a game but has decided to call it “Show Us Your Balls”
Samus: “I need to do something Dad. Just calm your horses down.”
Samus reads out a Valentine’s card she has written to us:
Samus: “Baa Baa Black Sheep. I’ll kiss you until you cry. Love from Blanka”
Samus is playing with a phone…
Samus: “Hello?  Stephen? Yes, yes, yes. I hate you. Goodbye.”
Mummy: “That wasn’t very nice.”
Samus: “He’s just a cat.”
Samus puts a plunger on Blanka’s head and claimed he “Looks just like a Grandad should”
Samus has asked for “splatted egg”.  We think she means fried.
Samus: “I’ve got sweaty alan’s”
Dinner time.  Samus, completely deadpan, drops her fork and looks me straight in the eye.
Samus: “Dad.  Are you Batman?”
Samus swears blind there is a Pokemon called “Classic Jones”
Blanka keeps refering to Pikachu as “Peter Chu.”
Blanka: “Can I touch the moon?”
Daddy: “No it’s too far away.”
Blanka: “Oooooh. Just a little bit.”
Daddy: “It’s too far away!”
Blanka: “Oh well. Maybe next time.”
I’m giving Blanka a shoulder carry.
Daddy: “What are you doing up there mate?”
Blanka: “I’m eating your hair!”
Samus is flexing her arm muscles.
Samus: “Check out these fancy boys.”
Blanka has invented a superhero called “Pussy Hump”
Samus has made one called “Hard Boy”
Samus: “Dad, on Father’s Day you can do anything you like.  Except burn the house down.”
Mummy: “So, what was your favourite thing at the fair?”
Samus: “My favourite thing was when Mummy was quiet”
Samus: “Do you know we came from monkeys?”
Daddy: “That’s right. Where did you hear that?”
Samus: “Nowhere. I figured it out myself.”
Blanka was opening a Christmas present. It was Gooey Louie.
Blanka has invented a dance called “Swag Your Bum Off”.
Blanka has made some superheroes called “Beeham” and “Foot Punk.”
He has also invented a video game called “Fight Breakfast”
Daddy: “Did you have a nice day today?”
Blanka: “Yep.  I didn’t fall over OR poo myself!”
Daddy: “Can you pick a bedtime story please?”
Blanks: “Nope. Too busy.” *does forward roll*
Blanka is pretending to be a superhero called Change. He can change into anything. Change’s brother was evil, so Change punched him to death in their bedroom. This meant Change has to live at Grandma’s.  Their parents were called Rocky and Stoney. Their Dad wore ladies shoes.
Samus: “When I die, I want to be buried next to you.”
Blanka: “Let’s play Mario Swimming!”
Daddy: “O.k.  How do you play that?”
Blanks: “Right. Y’know. It’s for one, two, three, four, five players. You’re on Bowser’s team and I’m on Mario’s. And it’s for five players. Ready? GO!”
Mummy: “Do you know what a Catholic is?”
Samus: “It’s someone with a big hat and a curly moustache.”
Blanka: “I did a pump and some poo-poo came out and it was melted”
Blanka had diarrhoea.
Samus: “Mummy is cuddly.  Daddy is like a bit of wood with nails in it.”
I act offended.
Samus: “Nah, it’s fine. The nails are your eyes, nose and mouth.”
Blanka: “I’ve done a wee but I didn’t touch my willy so I don’t need to wash my hands”
Samus: “Blanka, do you want to play musical statues?”
Blanka: “I’m Batman.”
Samus: “Batman, do you want to play musical statues?”
Blanka: *in a gruff voice* “Yes.”

Why I’m Raunchy For A Launchy

I am an impatient man, of this there is no doubt. My poor, long-suffering wife essentially has a grace period of about three minutes from the established home time in which to walk through the door otherwise I have a massive sulk and prepare the dinner in a passive aggressive way. You know the type; cutting the veg heavy-handedly so the knife hits the chopping board at a slightly louder than usual volume. Yeah. That’ll teach her.

This complete inability to wait has meant that I have often found myself picking up a new games machine on Day 1, despite the overwhelming body of evidence that tells me it’s stupid to do so. It’s more expensive, there’s barely anything to play and the hardware is almost guaranteed to develop a fault at some point down the line given that the manufacturers make all the mistakes on the first wave like parents do with their oldest child. I’m a first born and look at the fucking state of me. I’m the Red Ring of Death made flesh.

So why bother? Well aside from my aforementioned, Verruca Salt-style, “I want it NOW” personality, Launch Day is the closest I get as an adult to recreating the feeling of a childhood Christmas. It’s just so darn exciting, I genuinely lose sleep. Wrapped up tight in my duvet with a stupid grin plastered across my face, I speculate on the number of cable ties that hold the power supply unit in place or the number of languages on the health and safety information or if the BBC is going to do a bit on it on the breakfast news.

You’re a pioneer. At the bleeding edge. In the moment it’s easy to forget that you’re probably the millionth person to press the power on button. You know that Elbow song about opening your curtains? It’s like that. A thrilling adventure. A beautiful day. It’s cool as FUCK. It’s also a pretty sad commentary about our relationship with possessions and the dark pleasure that comes from their acquisition, ingrained in us since birth thanks to a relentless, capitalist machine constantly blasting advertising into our faces since birth  BUT NEVER MIND ABOUT THAT IT’S LAUNCH DAY!

Below are a few words about my launch day experiences, but please don’t take them as a recommendation that you join in. See them more an attempt to justify why I continue to cheerfully smash panes of glass against my head, paying several hundred pounds each time for the pleasure to do so.

2000 – PlayStation 2

Games: SSX, Fantavison.

I became an adult in the year 2000; a fact that my Mum spent my childhood telling me held some significance, despite the fact I’ve never met anyone else who gives this information even the most cursory of eyebrow raises. I was taking a year out and saving up for university; which as you can gather from this entry and the one below went swimmingly.

I was lording it up at home on nine and a half grand a year which was enough to make me feel like I was an international playboy. So when the chance arose to put my name down for a fancy black box that you could store horizontally AND vertically, well, you just don’t get many chances to be a part of a cultural milestone as huge as that very often.

And this was a launch where you PROPERLY had to put your name down. I don’t entirely remember all the details, but you actually had to have all your information jotted down and sent off to Sony. They said it was because the machine was in such high demand which sounds like total chinny reckon looking back on it. I wonder if all these forms still exist in a filing cabinet somewhere or if they were stolen in a low-tech, dry run of the great PS3 hack.I remember being somewhat disappointed that this system meant that actually collecting the device was rather civil. I popped into my local Electronics Boutique at opening time and me and some other saddo calmly carried our transactions in peace. There was no throbbing horde desperately clawing at the plastic bags. Nor a queue of nerdy, homeless people folding away their sleeping bags after roughing it for a week to catch a glimpse of Smuggler’s Run. Just “here you are”, “thanks”. Rubbish.

Fortunately, SSX was really good and Fantavision was pretty nice. And it was a DVD player too, so I got to watch Fight Club alone without my mum tutting over the punchy bits. Although my highlight of those first few weeks was the Metal Gear Solid 2 trailer which I watched so many times that seventeen years later, I’m thinking of using a reenactment of it as the basis for my debut one man show at Edinburgh Festival.


They gave us this weird little book a week before PS4 launch which I’ve kept like your Grandad does with all the old newspapers

2001 – Game Boy Advance

Games: Kuru Kuru Kururin, F-Zero: Maximum Velocity

Remember when the Game Boy Advance was landscape before the clam shell re-design? No, of course you don’t, because it was completely fucking awful. My overriding memory of this shitshow is steadily making my way round the perimeter of our garden in order to find the perfect lighting conditions necessary to make this fucking thing borderline playable. I can’t even be sure I ever figured out the exact science to what those conditions were. The screen wasn’t back-lit, so did this mean I had to have the sun in front of me or behind me? Perhaps I needed to play perched upon its surface or deep within its fiery belly.

Despite being the first handheld ever designed with the angler fish player in mind, I completely caned the thing until my hands withered away and resembled those bastards that fall from the ceiling in Zelda dungeons. Kuru Kuru Kururin got the majority of my attention and I think I managed to complete it the day after launch in the kind of move that infuriated by parents back then. Fortunately, this was my own money now so they were slightly less bothered that a game which could broadly be described as “moving a stick” was consigned to the shelf before the Earth had completed a full rotation upon its axis.

Having experienced a slightly disappointing launch day experience first time round, I thought I’d mix it up by going to a Debenhams concession. Not entirely sure what I was expecting to be different; a Black Friday style fight up the escalators perhaps. Turns out there’s even less people bothered about getting into a department store bang on opening and I was the only prick there. Having worked in retail myself, there’s a special look of contempt that you reserve for customers banging the door down and the girl from the perfume counter had this nailed on. There wasn’t even a Blue Cross Sale on FFS. I gave her my trademark thank you/apology hybrid, hastily made my way through the ‘fumes, completed my business and left. Why do I find this exciting again?


2002 – GameCube

Games: Luigi’s Mansion, Super Monkey Ball, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle

Midnight opening mother fuckers!

There’s something fantastically stupid about leaving a shop at ten to one in the morning so that you can play a video game at the earliest possible opportunity. Not only does the process destroy your body clock for the foreseeable future, but excitedly making your way through darkened streets clutching a hefty looking plastic bag with GAME plastered across the front of it, is one stop short of having a huge, flashing neon sign attached to your head that reads “THIS WAY FOR A-MUGGING”.

Being a man powered by paranoia, I splashed out on a taxi to avoid any potential beat-‘n-steals. I generally walk everywhere, regardless of the weather, so this was quite an extravagance. But then I was also a student at the time and money and value had a strange, ethereal nature; ensuring I had the latest Nintendo was more important than petty things like food and shelter. I’d be shivering alone under three, threadbare jumpers and surviving on a diet of out-of-date, tinned turnip chunks in brine for the next few weeks but OMFG IF YOU PRESS AND HOLD Z ON THE STARTUP IT MAKES A DIFFERENT NOISE!

Before making the trek into town, I popped round a friends flat to find them playing “Centurion”; a drinking game that involves downing a hundred shots of beer on the minute, for a hundred minutes. “What a ridiculous and immature pursuit” I thought to myself before settling down to a night of Monkey Tennis. My love for Super Monkey Ball has been well documented  round here and it would prove to be one of my favourite launch games of all time. Quite what was going on when I decided to spend £40 on Sonic Adventure 2 is anyone’s guess; particularly when you consider that our local off licence would provide 40 bottles of the delightful tipple “Chardolini” for a similar price. I’ve never been totally convinced by Sonic and this wouldn’t be the game to win me over; if I wanted to listen to some terrible raps whilst pushing right I’d have gone to a facist hip-hop festival. I’m sure they exist and can be found locally.

I didn’t really like Luigi’s Mansion either, truth be told. But I’ve got to keep that quiet or the other fanboys won’t let me back in the secret treehouse. Generally though, this launch was a goodie; thanks to the machine being actually bloody brilliant but also amazingly priced. It was £130 on day one which makes it sound like it was released a hundred years ago. Back then, thrice tuppence and half-a-ta’happenny could buy you a return ticket on the steam tram, a pound of Dr Mavricks’ tobacco flavoured chewin’ fudge and a copy of Def Jam: Fight for New York.


This is me on my way to the ‘Cube launch. I am not going to a boyband audition.  I would never smile like this again.


2004 – Nintendo DS

Games: Polarium, Project Rub, WarioWare: Touched!

Midnight opening. Mother fuckers.

My view of forcing retail staff out of their beds in the dead of night so that they could earn all of £7 because you couldn’t wait a few fucking hours changed somewhat when I was on the other side of the counter. Yes, around this time I found myself having tiny pieces of my soul chipped away as I sold another copy of fucking Ghost Recon or some shit whilst proper, real games like Baten Kaitos sat unloved on the shelf. “Fucking cretins” I’d think to myself, slowly transforming Dylan Moran’s character in the equivalent version of Black Books (which I guess would probably be called “Purple GAMEs”).

It does put a bit of a dampener on the experience when you know you’ve got to be up at seven in the morning to sell hundred of the things, but I soldiered on and managed to get mine home and play  bit of WarioWare. It wasn’t nearly as good as the original though; a sentence I’d become only too familiar in using when talking about that series. And Project Rub was basically the same thing but with all the humour replaced with sex people, Lynn. I enjoyed Polarium too which reminded me very much of Jessica Fletcher, in that it was a really good little puzzler.

There was little here to suggest that the DS would go on to be one of my all-time favourite machines, nor that touching stuff would become such a large part of gaming for years to come. Generally, I prefer things with buttons, which always makes me feel like a curmudgeony old twat (what a beautiful image I’ve painted for you there), but the DS won me over with a truly outstanding catalogue of left-field oddities over its lifespan.

I even bought a handcrafted stylus with my name on it. I bloody love styluses. I find something so lovably quaint about them. Like a stereo with a built-in minidisc player.


2006 – Wii

Games: Bomberman ’93, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Wii Play, Wii Sports

Check out Richie Rich over here. Not quite sure how I managed to afford this little lot when at the time I was still employed by the nation’s most bafflingly successful high street chain. Perhaps whatever black arts they’re using to avoid bankruptcy rubbed off on me. Perhaps I just nicked it all. I’m joking, obviously. I don’t have the constitution to carry out a heist like that. I once accidently pocketed one of the pencils from Argos and spent the next few weeks on the run to Mexico.

Mind you, I was absolutely fuming at my paymasters in the lead up to this launch so a little rewengay wouldn’t have gone amiss. A few days before the big event, a memo went round stating that any staff pre-orders would not be honoured in order to make more units available for the public. It’s an interesting and unorthodox way to inspire your team before a big weekend I’ll give them that. Fearing the kind of response that would have made the French Revolution look like Dance Dance Revolution they quickly backtracked on this and I found myself with this mental little white box on launch day, back when we all still found the name hilarious.

Being a total fucking trailblazer, I actually filmed myself setting everything up and playing it for the first time. Unboxing videos are all the rage these days so it’s a shame I’m so utterly devoid of charm otherwise I could have stuck it online and made my fortune. Quite where this tape is now is anyone’s guess, which is a shame, as I’d quite like to be able to relive my first fumbled forays into motion controlled gaming. I bet at the start I was  waggling it around a bit too hard and at a funny angle. Like your mum.

Zelda was excellent fo’ obvs’ and I’d keep an eye on Wii Sports if I were you; something tells me that game is going to be huge. Banana Blitz was genuinely awful; perhaps the most disappointing launch game I’ve ever bought. One of the minigames; Monkey Flying Saucer or some shit; was like having a chimp scream directly into your face for three minutes like that monster does to the old lady in the Aphex Twin video. Horrible stuff. Bomberman was notable as not only being the first digital game I ever bought but also being responsible for the first time I swore in front of my parents. I took my new toy round to show off and despite having hundreds of bombing hours under my belt, I was roundly beaten by my then 12 year old sister. If that doesn’t deserve a loud, involuntary “oh for fucks sake” I don’t know what does.


2013 – PlayStation 4

Games: Call of Duty: Ghosts, Contrast, Need for Speed: Rivals, Resogun

Jesus Fucking Christ, look at the state of those games. With the exception of Resogun; which was, is, and always will be completely amazing; it’s like I’ve been possessed by “Thatch” from down the pub. He’s one of those guys who’s such a lad he gets referred to by a variation on his last name. Goes to Yates, always seems to have a new T.V, stands weird; you know the type.

Code magnolia levels of blandness aside, this launch felt pretty darn exciting. Mostly because it had been bloody years since the 360 and PS3 had been released so everyone was completely losing their shit. In that moment, seeing a slightly better defined gruff cockney in a full camo gear barking at you to take out tangos like you were laying siege to Britvic HQ seemed well worth the cost of entry.

In retrospect it wasn’t of course. This was a truly terrible launch. Elsewhere people were gritting their teeth through Knack or waiting for EA to get Battlefield 4 up and running. Thousands stuck in endless lobbies like the fevered cheese dream of Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi. These days, the machine is more or less essential. But it’s safe to say it had a rockier start than the career of Sylvester Stallone.

This was the first time I experienced the majesty of having a machine delivered by DPD. DPD have a very clever strategy when it comes to establishing themselves as the best courier company, and it revolves around not being totally fucking shite. Rather than vaguely throwing your package over the border of your postcode or leaving it with your nearest designated drug addict, they actually attempt to hand it to you. It’s a brilliant concept.

Of course, my PS4 was delivered at half past four; at the exact moment I had to go out and collect the children. I’d naturally taken the day off work, so in order to keep myself busy I spent the day tidying the house. It was spotless. Like I’d been on the meth. I was so bored and restless that day I genuinely emailed Tesco to tell them of some excellent customer service I had recently received. Just wanted someone to talk to.


The Switch doesn’t quite fit on the TV unit which doesn’t quite fit in the gap in the wall. My life.

2017 – Nintendo Switch

Games: 1, 2 Switch, Bomberman R, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I’m writing this but a week after launch so the dust hasn’t quite settled yet. I had hoped to finish this post beforehand to ride the wave of launch fever, but missed it on account of spending every waking moment staring directly into the face of the dining room clock, willing my life away.

This was another hang-around-the-house-and-wait-for-a-van launch. I’d got myself the DPD app this time round which is brilliant as you can frustratingly watch your driver making drops in your local area seemingly at random. It was actually an excellent bit of foreshadowing for Zelda; a game which puts so many delightful surprises round every corner it’s impossible to make your way around the map in a logical manner. My driver was a young chap called Alex who could barely mask his disgust as I opened the door before he knocked. Although to be frank, DPD are so much better than the competition, I’d happily sign for the package by being kicked in the balls and spat in the face.

Zelda is excellent, although I am feeling weirdly guilty about not finding it to be quite as good as everyone else is. I don’t know, all I’m saying is that I just don’t think it’s mankind’s single greatest cultural achievement. And climbing in the rain is total bollocks. Bomberman is better than the internet would have you believe, where the main complaint seems to be that it costs the amount of money that games do. I’ve played 1, 2 Switch for the best part of an hour. I wasn’t going to get it but totally panicked at the last moment and stumbled into a shop spilling money over the counter. It seems fun, although I still can’t believe that someone has rubber stamped that name. Minigames where you look like you’re vigorously tossing someone off are one thing, but there really is no excuse for a clumsy, horribly punctuated name like that. You are reading JollyNiceSoup.

There’s loads of stories circulating at the moment that the left controller doesn’t work and that the dock scratches your screen and that the whole machine was somehow implicated in 9/11. These kind of horror stories are par for the course this early on in a machines lifespan. I’m not too worried at the moment. I’m more concerned about how I’m going to feed my family for the rest of the month.


OMFG – Singstar

I was once in a school production of the popular musical Grease. During my years treading the boards I was very much in the mould of Daniel Day Lewis, so the transformation from a clumsy, waif-like boff to streetwise American proto-hipster was within my range and my performance was well received. There was, however, a catch. One of the downsides to landing a part in a musical is that you are often required to sing. Now, some would say my inability to hold a note would rule me out of contention entirely, but my talent was so vast (or the pool so shallow) that my teachers had to come to a ingenious solution. They simply suggested that I mime the singing bits. Perfect. A musical without live performance and a performer told he’s so shit he should probably just shut up. Inspiring. Leave no child behind.

You would therefore expect that video game karaoke would be somewhat unpopular round our way; seeing as it combines my greatest passion with my biggest weakness. It’s like a kryptonite cape; familiar and iconic but also constantly draining me of my life force. But my Singstar story is a tale of triumph over adversity. I once glanced through a collection of my PlayStation trophies and I discovered that my rarest was for Singstar. The criteria? Simply playing it for bloody ages. What I might lack in talent, I more than make up in persistence. Just give me a chance Simon, I won’t let you down. I always give 110%.

This thousand hour love story; told across generations; peppered with conflict, friendship and even a wedding; begins with a simple click of the fingers. A strong, purposeful beat delivered elegantly by a well-manicured hand. As the fingers slam upon the palm with a raw rhythmic power, the hand balls delicately around the wrist with an effortless flourish. The image has the grace of ballet but the sound has intensity of cannon fire. Surely this is a call to arms. What comes next will be remembered for eons:

People always talk about
Hey oh hey oh hey oh
All the things they’re all about
Hey oh hey oh hey oh
Write it on a piece of paper
Got a feeling I’ll see you later

For the uninitiated, these are the words of poet and academic Jamelia, taken from her seminal early 00’s release “Superstar”. This deeply provocative and timeless piece was chosen as the main theme for the first version of Singstar released on the PS2 back in 2004. Aside from its complex, layered exploration of all the things we’re all about, Superstar was also a perfect introduction to the world of competitive singing. In a game where sound was objectively valued and given a score, Superstar was ideal given that it was so monotone it could probably be performed to reasonable standard by Droopy the Dog.

You see, Singstar doesn’t care if you sound good, it just cares that you sound right. As the glittering bars fill the screen it patronisingly assures you that you’ve nailed it. You definitely sound just like Minnie Ripton. But as anyone nearby possessing a pair of ears will attest to, playing the footage back can be a dispiriting experience. Even if you hit all the right notes in the right order, you still sound awful you bloody drunk.

Which is where stage presence, a.k.a showing off, comes in. The PlayStation 3 version introduced the ability to record a short snippet of your performance which you could then play back at the end. The genius of this addition was that it gave you the heads up that it was coming so that you could prepare. Here it comes. Your spotlight.

My PS3 is filled to the brim with powerfully embarrassing ten second clips of myself, my wife and my close friends stumbling around living rooms briefly convinced of our own talent. Sofa cushions quickly appropriated into Jamiroquoi style hats. Scissor Sisters impressions that somehow manage to be more camp than the originals. You have not known pain until you’ve witnessed two nerds from East Anglia perform “Beep” by Will .I.Am and The Pussycat Dolls. Think you’ve reached peak cringe? Think again bitches. Here we all are making gang signs during Fix Up Look Sharp.

Great performances called for synchronisation. Teamwork. I consider Singstar to be one of the finest co-op games of all time. In duet mode, the score between you was shared and you would naturally assist one another by in one continuous feedback loop. Find yourself totally out of key in the chorus whilst your partner is nailing it, and a quick shift of concentration from what you’re seeing to what you’re hearing could find your voice clicking into place. Their enthusiasm, their passion and their enjoyment helped motivate too. Often hitting the right notes was just a case of giving it some welly. And with your high scores signed off with a photo of the victorious pair, there was plenty of scope for further shenanigans. The games unusual scoring system, where each song is capped at 10 000 points regardless of its difficulty, meant that perfection always felt tantalisingly within reach. A friend an I once agonisingly hit 9 800 on Supergrass’ Richard III. A mere 200 somethings from a technically perfect Gaz Coombes. It truly was the hardest thing you’ll never know.

Of course it wasn’t all about attributing value to art. Scores were all well and good but sometimes it was fun to just try and attempt something that was nigh on impossible to sing. “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys has some truly next level harmony shit going on. “Rock Me Amadeus” required you to learn how to rap in German on the fly. “Take on Me” had that winning combination of lulling you into a false sense of security during the verses before detonating your lungs during the chorus. But The Bees’ “Chicken Payback” was Singstar on Legendary mode. Its insanely difficult, tongue-twisting tale of financial transactions within the animal kingdom required the kind of concentration normally only seen in the operating theatre, and remained a firm favourite long after the wider world had completely forgotten about its existence.


There is a PS$ version but it’s bum. This is where it’s at, complete with main theme provided by Wolfmother (no, me neither)

Which is also the kind of thing that’s responsible for one of the games more obscure, accidental charms. Due to its relatively brief period of insane popularity, Singstar is a pretty good record of music during the mid to late 00’s. The mix of classics with what was popular at the time means that the likes of Bowie, Presley and The Rolling Stones rub shoulders with the “remember-thems?” of Orson, Ne-Yo and Daniel Bedingfield. Nostalgia in video games is generally restricted to the game itself. Unlike music, film or television, they very rarely reference outside of the medium. But Singstar has the early century coursing through its veins. It’s emotive of that time in a way that normally only music manages.

Of course, the relevance of this will largely depend on what you were doing at that time. Me? I’d just moved into a house with this lady I fancied and was enjoying those few blessed years of freedom before we lost our minds long enough to think it was a good idea to have children. Is it an exaggeration to say that our relationship was forged and cemented within Singstar? Possibly. But for a couple of years, this is what we did together. Our Friday nights were spent drinking every last remaining drop of liquid in the house whilst destroying the entire history of pop music. I’m not proud of it, but we got through several sets of neighbours during this time.

But those performances! The hours spent perfecting our Paula Abdul and MC Skat Cat or our Beyonce and The Other Two. The time we discovered that we could completely smash Parklife (this is probably largely down to the fact that I was born and raised in the same town as Blur and also that I’m married to Phil Daniels). I’m fairly certain the last time we saw my grandad before he died, we signed off our relationship by delighting him with a rendition of Dizzee Rascal’s “Bonkers”.

Or even that day we got married. Yes, I’m afraid to say, we’re one of those insufferable couples that did “a thing” at our wedding (although this was nearly ten years ago now so I consider us to be trailblazers in the world of lol random first dances). Run DMC’s “Tricky”, our go-to Singstar track, performed in full with the kind of enthusiasm you only get after a day of everyone doing everything you want and several thousand gallons of booze.  We’d managed to keep it secret until the performance so I’m sure we delighted and confused in equal measure. Although I do remember my best man cheerfully shouting in my ear afterwards that it was “the best thing I have ever seen, which was probably the most important and life-changing thing anyone had said to me all day.

This is going to sound naff as all fuck, but in many ways Singstar is more than a game to me. It’s a collection of memories. I dread to think of the money I spent on it over the years in its numerous guises or on its “only a pound per song” DLC, but without it I might never have learned how to rap a rhyme that’s right on time. I might never have learned that I have exactly the same vocal range as Thom Yorke (honestly, it’s spooky. My scores were consistently the worst amongst my friends except for Radiohead where I would always inexplicably smash it). I almost certainly would never have discovered that Dido’s “Thank You” is immeasurably improved with the introduction of a foul-mouthed hype man. So if it’s all the same to you Mr Smith and Mrs Heare, I won’t be miming during Greased Lightning thank-you-very-much. I’m going to sing. And to Singstar;

I want to thank you.
(Wanna mother fucking thank you)
For giving me the best day-ay of my life
(Of my mother fucking life)
And oh-oh, just to be with you
(Just to mother fucking be with you)
Is having the best day of my life.